France coach Didier Deschamps said the way his team lost Sunday's World Cup final against Argentina was "cruel" after they came from behind twice over the course of the game only to succumb in a penalty shoot-out.
"We were not as good in the first 60 minutes against top-quality opponents who had a lot more energy, but we came back from nowhere and turned the game around from a very difficult situation. That leaves us with even more regrets," said Deschamps after France failed in their bid to become the first team in 60 years to retain the trophy.
Kylian Mbappe scored twice in two minutes late on in Doha to cancel out Argentina's two-goal lead and force extra time, in which he scored again from a penalty to complete his hat-trick and make it 3-3 after Lionel Messi had put the opposition back in front.
Randal Kolo Muani was then denied a last-gasp winner by goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, and Argentina won the shoot-out 4-2, with France's Kingsley Coman seeing his penalty saved and Aurelien Tchouameni missing the target.
"We had a chance to win the World Cup in the last minute but it wasn't to be," Deschamps said. "At 2-0, there would not have been the same regrets, you just say 'bravo' to them. I don't want to take any merit away from Argentina, but there were lots and lots of emotions and it was cruel at the end because we were so close."
Deschamps suggested that the virus which laid low several of his players in the run-up to the final was partly to blame for their poor performance over the first hour.
"There were many reasons which explained why we were not as good. Several important players had less energy but bringing on younger players with less experience but plenty of freshness and quality allowed us to keep dreaming. But unfortunately the dream did not come true."
Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano both returned after missing the semi-final win over Morocco due to illness. Raphael Varane started having missed training on Friday with cold-like symptoms but the sluggish performance of Deschamps' team for long spells suggested others were also struggling.
"The whole squad had had to face up to a difficult situation. Did that have a physical or psychological impact? Maybe, I don't know," said Deschamps, who had hoped to become the first coach to win two World Cups since Italy's Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s. "I wasn't worried for the players who started, but maybe it was just the matches catching up with us, and we had four days to prepare, one day fewer than them. These are not excuses but we were not as dynamic as we had been and that was why it was practically not a contest for an hour."
With his team trailing 2-0 at halftime, Deschamps said he had been so angry in the locker room that he hurt a finger, which was covered with a plaster as he spoke to reporters.
"I lost a bit of my finger at halftime. That happens to me sometimes -- you have to cause a few ripples and try to turn things around. We were not at our best physically, and it happened against a team who were playing a World Cup final. I didn't get the impression that we were."
© Agence France-Presse