Juninho backs France to reach World Cup semis

The former Olympique Lyonnais midfielder believes les Bleus should be confident of progressing to the last four of the tournament after their impressive displays so far

Juninho Pernambucano says France should be looking to make the latter stages of the World Cup after their Group E performances.

Les Bleus dismantled Switzerland on Friday, earning a 5-2 victory after defeating Honduras 3-0 in their opening game, to all but seal passage to the next round of the tournament.

However, Juninho, who enjoyed eight successful years in France with Olympique Lyonnais, where he lifted the Ligue 1 trophy seven times, is confident that the last-16 will not be the full extent of French ambitions.

“Before the World Cup, I said France could go all the way to the semis,” the 39-year-old told francefootball.fr.

“And I haven’t change my mind since then. Since the Ukraine match [a 3-2 aggregate win in a World Cup qualifying play-off], this young team has grown in confidence. They have found a way to play with three midfielders, who are defensive… but who can play with the ball.

“Against Switzerland, they played the perfect match. No team had hurt another one as badly until then. Not with such varied plays.

“France sent a strong message. There are not a lot of individuals… it is very solid and very balanced. When you play at this level, you can’t say that you’re aiming only at a quarter-final or a semi.”

Juninho also praised the impact of Benzema – who was a teammate of his at Lyon – on Didier Deschamps side and his role in the attacking set up.

“With Benzema, Deschamps has two options and they work,” the Brazilian continued.

“I liked the triumvirate with [Antoine] Griezmann and [Mathieu] Valbuena. [Olivier] Giroud can help Karim even if we can’t expect a lot technically from the Arsenal man. Benzema has matured a lot since Lyon. He is already a small part of the history of the World Cup.”

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