Calm and discreet Lloris to break France captaincy record

Photo by Handout/UEFA via Getty Images

PARIS (AP) It is hard to notice that Hugo Lloris is captain of France, such is his calm, soft-spoken attitude.

No screaming at his defenders; no flapping his hands at a bad decision by a linesman, no in-your-face celebrations when he makes a save. He will captain Les Bleus for the 55th time against Ireland in the last 16 of the European Championship on Sunday, breaking the record held by France coach Didier Deschamps.

“It’s pleasing, but I’m focusing on the competition and going as far as possible,” Lloris said of the record on Saturday.

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While Deschamps led France to success at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 in an animated way – pumping his fists and encouraging his teammates – Lloris has a quiet authority about him.

His low-key approach inspires trust and confidence in his club teammates at Premier League Tottenham and with the national team.

“He’s a very serious man with a lot of humanity. He’s totally respected by the other players,” French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet said. “He doesn’t speak up for the sake of it; when he has something to say it’s because he’s thought it through.”

Lloris adapted to international football smoothly, keeping clean sheets in his first three matches after making his debut eight years ago, when he played for Lyon.

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He first wore the armband in a friendly against England in November 2010, although former France coach Laurent Blanc changed his captains several times before finally giving it to Lloris on a full-time basis nearly one year later.

The choice was hotly debated, with critics skeptical that Lloris had enough charisma to lead the side, which he did at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup.

“Being a leader of men doesn’t mean just shouting your head off to be respected,” Le Graet said. “Someone who speaks sensibly and fairly, who respects his teammates, is a good captain. He’s not an extrovert, he’s calm and thoughtful.”

Deschamps also highlighted how the 29-year-old Lloris had grown into his captain’s role.

“He knows how to get his point across,” Deschamps said Saturday. “He’s gained in confidence and maturity.”

Lloris, who started his career with Nice 11 years ago, speaks almost in a whisper at news conferences, sometimes mumbling his words.

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The only time he really spoke up was before the return leg of the 2014 World Cup playoff against Ukraine in November, 2013.

France had been battered in Kiev, and was lucky only to lose the first leg 2-0, and Lloris made it clear before the return leg that some players were not pulling their weight.

It was unlike Lloris to be so direct, but the stinging words seemed to help as France won 3-0 to qualify.

Having also played at the 2010 World Cup, this is his fourth major tournament as France’s No. 1.

He stands to win his 79th international cap on Sunday, but he has never been beyond the quarterfinals of an international competition.

But former France keeper Fabien Barthez, who won the World Cup and Euro 2000, thinks that could change at Euro 2016.

“I sense things, I have a feeling,” Barthez told sports daily L’Equipe. “He has the right attitude, the right posture … He has an aura.”