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Steve Mandanda becomes oldest French player to make World Cup debut

Coach Didier Deschamps left it up to Hugo Lloris.

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Did France’s starting goalkeeper want to play in the final, meaningless group game against Denmark? Or would he let Steve Mandanda start?

Through his first two World Cups and three European Championships, through 19 major championship matches, Mandanda had watched from the bench.

So when he was confronted with the choice, Lloris sat, allowing Mandanda to play in Tuesday’s scoreless draw with Denmark, giving him a shutout in his World Cup debut.

“He deserved it,” Deschamps said. “It may be difficult for him to be in another World Cup since he’s 33.

“It’s not to thank him. It’s not a gift. But it seemed logical to me to offer him this possibility to play a World Cup game and he responded very well on the pitch."

Mandanda, a Congo native and the oldest French player to make a World Cup debut, wasn’t tested often, facing just five shots, only one of which resulted in a save. But he showed good instincts, charging off his line to break up a Danish counterattack in the first half.

"Very satisfying for me personally,” Mandanda said. “I'm savoring it. Even if the match didn't please you, I had a whale of a time."

France backup goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, left, is congratulated by starting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris after a 0-0 draw against Denmark on Tuesday.
France backup goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, left, is congratulated by starting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris after a 0-0 draw against Denmark on Tuesday. (Franck Fife / AFP / Getty Images)

His teammates were pleased as well.

"He patiently waited his turn. Of course he's a competitor, but he is at the service of the team," midfielder Blaise Matuidi said. "He does a lot of good. We have a lot of young players and he helps them a lot. He manages to communicate with them and gives us advice and that is useful."

It’s getting hot in here

The World Cup opened under gray and gloomy skies, but summer has arrived with a vengeance.

The forecast for Mexico’s final group game with Sweden on Wednesday in Yekaterinburg calls for temperatures in the mid-80s, about 15 degrees warmer than usual. Tuesday’s temperatures in Kazan, where Germany and South Korea meet in the other Group F final, touched 90 degrees with 55% humidity.

When Russia kicked off against Uruguay on Monday in Samara in 95-degree temperatures, it was so hot that authorities distributed water to fans.

Iran coach rips VAR

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Iran coach Carlos Queiroz was so furious with the World Cup's video assistant referee system that he ranted for more than 20 minutes following Monday’s draw with Portugal that knocked his squad out of the tournament.

"If you implement VAR, then to make mistakes is not human,” Queiroz said in English at the postgame conference. “To make mistakes is when a man, alone on the pitch, could not see something. We accept that.

“But when you have high technology, training, thousands of dollars spent on one system and five guys sitting upstairs and they don't see an elbow — it's a yellow card? Give me a break."

Queiroz was angered that Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo was not issued a red card when his elbow struck Iran defender Morteza Pouraliganji in the face. Ronaldo had aggressively initiated contact from behind on the play.

The Iranians already felt VAR had robbed them when a goal was overturned by the new review process for offside in a 1-0 loss to Spain earlier in the tournament. The day before the Monday group stage finale, Queiroz said he supported the video review for obvious mistakes. He made it clear he was against its overuse in this tournament to address debatable judgment calls.

Queiroz said FIFA president Gianni Infantino "needs to say, 'Something is wrong here. We need to make it right.'"

In the first World Cup with VAR, 22 penalty kicks have been awarded in the first 40 games — four more than the record for any previous tournament. FIFA says there were 18 penalties awarded in 1990, 1998 and 2002.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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