Captain Hugo Lloris believes France have developed into a "complete" team as the World Cup finalists hit back at Belgium jibes that they are an "anti-football" side.
Thibaut Courtois, the Belgium goalkeeper, and Eden Hazard, his compatriot and club teammate at Chelsea, launched blistering attacks on France in the wake of their 1-0 semi-final defeat in St Petersburg on Wednesday.
Didier Deschamps, the France coach, set up his team to play on the counter-attack but Courtois claimed there was only one side trying to win and suggested it was fitting their goal came from a set-piece with Samuel Umtiti heading home Antoine Griezmann's corner.
"France heads in a corner and does nothing more than defend," Courtois was reported as telling Sporza. "I would have preferred to have lost in the quarter-finals to Brazil, at least that was a team that wanted to play football. [France] are just an anti-football team."
Hazard offered a similarly damning assessment of France. Quoted by Het Nieuwsblad, Hazard said: "I prefer to lose with this Belgium than win with this France. But they do defend strongly ... We have not found their weak point. That little moment of magic needed to score was not there."
Yet such criticisms were brushed off by France, with Lloris insisting they were showing in Russia what a formidable side they are and how they are capable of adjusting their style of play.
Whereas France played on the counter-attack against Belgium and predominantly so in their 4-3 last 16 win over Argentina, when they had just 40 and 41 per cent possession respectively, Deschamps' side sought to control the ball in their 2-0 quarter-final victory over Uruguay and enjoyed 58 per cent possession.
"I think we are quite complete as a team," the Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper said. "We can play in different ways, in different styles. But the most important thing is that all the players are involved to help the team.
"I know it could be a bit stupid to say that but this is the reality. Everybody tries to work and run for the team and do their best. As you say, we have plenty of talented players but it is the case for all the teams involved, like England. The mental side is very important and if you want success in the competition, you need strong basics, especially defensively because when you defend well, you have more chance to win games."
Deschamps came in for criticism in the wake of France's Euro 2016 final defeat to Portugal on home soil and even faced calls to be sacked but Lloris believes the coach has answered his critics, changing the set-up of his forward line in the group stage to maximise Kylian Mbappe's threat and alternating tactics in the knockout stages.
"I think the manager deserves a lot of credit because against Argentina and Uruguay, and even [against Belgium], his plan was perfect," he said. "We adapt the way we play against our opponent and this is to his credit.
"We have the talent, we have the belief, the spirit to turn the game our way."
The French will attempt to win a second World Cup against Croatia on Monday morning (NZT) — 20 years after the first.
- Telegraph Group Ltd