(Adds Sakho quotes, details on Varane)
By Karolos Grohmann
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, July 2 (Reuters) - France midfielder Blaise Matuidi will not change the way he plays even after narrowly avoiding being sent off in their World Cup last-16 game against Nigeria as the former champions prepare to face Germany in the last eight.
Matuidi was lucky to be shown only a yellow card in the French team's 2-0 win after his studs-up challenge on Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi who had to leave the field due to his injury.
The France international, who has since apologised for the challenge that looked to be more clumsy than malicious, said he would be equally committed against the Germans in Rio de Janeiro on Friday with a semi-final place at stake.
"I would not change anything in my game, yellow card or not," he told reporters at the team's Ribeirao Preto base On Wednesday.
"I don't think about that yellow card. This is a dream for us but now we have no time to enjoy this."
Matuidi, whose superb fitness is one of his biggest assets, said the Germans may be favourites because of their better run in the last few tournaments but that would count for nothing.
"Clearly we can say they are the favourites because of their recent past but anything can happen in one game, everyone knows that very well," he said.
"On that evening on Friday there are no favourites. We will make it hard for them and we want to advance."
Germany have played in two semi-finals and one final in the previous three World Cups but have not won the trophy since 1990.
Matuidi laughed off suggestions that past defeats by Germany at World Cups had given the French players an inferiority complex.
"Not at all," he said calmly. "I have always been proud and happy with what France have done in the past and to wear this French shirt. I only think of my team I do not need to think about a different country.
"The French people are proud to see 23 warriors here in Brazil fighting for this shirt," he said.
France have reached the knockout stage four years after exiting the tournament in South Africa in disgrace after a disastrous group-stage performance and a player rebellion.
This time, however, the team spirit could not be more different.
"We have strong characters but we understand each other well," said France defender Mamadou Sakho, fit-again after injury.
"I have the feeling I am re-living my years of early training. It is indeed great a atmosphere in the team."
"I am feeling well. I trained yesterday and all is going according to plan," he said.
Coach Didier Deschamps will be happy to have Sakho back, while fellow defender Raphael Varane, who suffered from dehydration and spent some hours in hospital after the game against Nigeria, has also fully recovered.
"It is true he was suffering a bit but he is good now," said Sakho. "He is smiling and happy again." (Editing by Ed Osmond)
- Sports & Recreation
- Blaise Matuidi
- Mamadou Sakho