France winger Mathieu Valbuena has insisted he does not want to be rested for the side’s final World Cup group game against Ecuador tomorrow, despite their comfortable position.
Emphatic 3-0 and 5-2 wins over Honduras and Switzerland, respectively, mean the side have all but mathematically qualified for the last 16 as Group E winners with a game to spare, but Valbuena still sees the match against the South Americans as one they should be motivated for.
‘We are not [mathematically] guaranteed to make it to the knockout phase and of course I always want to play,’ he said. ‘The coach knows that I do. The coach will make his decision. He will put together the most balanced and best possible team. Everyone wants to play but he will decide.’
Valbuena has played in every game for France since manager Didier Deschamps was appointed in July 2012, the former World Cup-winning captain having previously coached the player for four seasons at Marseille, but the 29-year-old admits their relationship has not always been so strong.
‘People often ask me about my relationship with Deschamps,’ he said. ‘In Marseille we had a difficult start. Let’s say I was not amongst his favourites but I worked hard enough to earn opportunities to play and win titles with him and now we play with the French national team.
‘It’s nice to see that even though things did not start so well. So now all is well and I hope it will carry on this way.’
One of only four survivors in the current squad from the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign, which saw France crash out at the group stages after a player-led revolt, Valbuena has been among the tournament’s standout performers thus far, his displays on the right wing over the opening two games earning rave reviews.
Netting in the win against the Swiss, the diminutive playmaker has earned 36 caps since making his debut in 2010, while also starring as one of Ligue 1’s most highly-rated assets for the past eight seasons at Marseille.
Known for his pace, technique and work-rate, Valbuena however admitted earlier this year that he was ready for a new challenge on the club front and, with Arsenal and Liverpool both reportedly interested in his services this offseason, the Frenchman’s performances during the past couple of weeks could well be enough to convince them of this worth.
Previously rated at £10million, that price tag will surely be set to rise if both le Petit Vélo, as he is nicknamed, and France continue to impress in the way they have so far at this World Cup.