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Are the bad days behind France?

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Phil Minshull | 11:03 UK time, Wednesday, 23 March 2011

France's World Cup campaign in South Africa last summer will go down as one of the most ill-fated of a major football nation but coach Laurent Blanc appears to have finally got his players and the French public to focus on the future rather than the past

The noises emanating from Les Bleus' training camp at Clairefontaine in the last few days have been positive ones. Harmony, at least on the surface and in public, has been restored. Pulling on a French jersey has become fun again rather than a chore, according to captain Alou Diarra.

After the 1-0 home defeat by Belarus which opened their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, some wondered whether Blanc had really been the right choice to succeed the much-maligned Raymond Domenech.

Since then, however, Blanc's team have rattled off three straight wins to stand on top of their group.

Admittedly, a couple of those performances were hardly of the vintage of the famous French teams of the Zidane-Deschamps era, but perhaps that was always too much to ask just a few months after everything fell apart so dramatically.

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Nevertheless, the signs are definitely now there that this is a French team growing in stature and that could be contenders at Euro 2012, a point of view supported by their 1-0 win over Brazil in February.

Yes, Brazil played the second half with 10 men but nevertheless, there were periods when France shone, in particular Jeremy Menez down the right flank.

Credit also has to be given to Karim Benzema, who has been looking the part for both Real Madrid and France in recent months, benefiting from shrewd psychology of both club coach Jose Mourinho and Blanc.

The forthcoming fixture list should enable Blanc to consolidate his progress so far.

A visit to Luxembourg on Friday night should see France add to their points tally in their qualifying group and they then have a series of friendlies which will allow him to make some gentle experiments.

Croatia visit the Stade de France next Tuesday and France are then away to Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine and Poland on 6 and 9 June, three games which will provide a perfect opportunity to have a look around at who has done well in the second half of the season and introduce a little new blood 12 months ahead of the next major tournament.

Blanc has offered an olive branch to Franck Ribery, one of the ringleaders of the infamous World Cup training ground strike in Knysna, by recalling him to the squad for the game against Luxembourg.

Ribery was given a three-match ban after the World Cup squad returned home and injuries have kept him out of more recent French squads, but it is significant that Blanc has been prepared to restore the Bayern Munich player despite the emergence of Roma's Menez.

On Monday, Ribery faced the press at Blanc's insistence after refusing to talk to them for many months. Apart from a mild tirade at the French media's intrusion into his private life, he mainly said all the right things.

"I've not been afraid of returning to the French team, I saw Laurent Blanc about three or four months ago and then I saw him after last week's match against Inter. There has been much discussed, and it made me feel much better. I want to thank him because returning to French team always been a dream," said the penitent forward.

"I want to draw a line under the past, I've made mistakes, both in my private life and as a footballer, but I was touched by the support I received from Blanc, he made it clear that he really wanted me back in the fold."

Perhaps under Blanc, Ribery can revisit his halcyon era of 2006 to 2008 when he was indisputably one of the best wingers in the world.

When fit, he has always seemed to respond on the field to a coach that gives him a bit of love and the relationship between Ribery and Blanc seems to be an affectionate one.

Ribery (left) and Patrice Evra are both back in favour with France - photo: AP

Blanc admitted earlier this week that he still isn't sure how he is going to use Ribery.

"There will be a discussion. He started with the national team on the right, where he was very impressive. He prefers the left wing, which makes sense because that is where he plays for his club," he said.

However, Chelsea's Florent Malouda has featured on the left side of the French attack in recent matches and Blanc added: "I believe he [Ribery] can play anywhere across the attack. He is capable of beating his man no matter what area of the pitch he is in."

If Ribery makes the starting line-up, it might be at the expense of Lyon's Yoann Gourcuff, who is struggling to fulfil the promise shown in recent seasons and is having a mediocre time with both his club and country.

Blanc started with Gourcuff against Luxembourg last October and also Brazil but he put in two erratic performances. Friday may see him on the bench.

Along with Ribery, Blanc also recalled Patrice Evra for the first time since the World Cup.

In the Manchester United left-back's case, after being banned for five matches after leading the World Cup revolt as the team captain and then being overlooked by Blanc for the Brazil match, his selection was more a forced one owing to Barcelona's Eric Abidal being unavailable following surgery on a liver tumour.

Evra may go straight into the starting line-up - and his United form certainly warrants it - but Blanc has made it clear that he will not regain the captain's armband, now worn by Diarra.

Luxembourg is often described as the 'crossroads of Europe' and maybe on Friday night it will turn out to be the crossroads where Blanc and the French team finally turn a corner after the events of last summer.

Comments on this blog in the space below. Other comments or questions on European football to: I do not need your full address but please put the town/city and country where you come from.


  • Comment number 1.

    To be fair they did look good against England, but that's because England are a bad side. Against Brazil they played most of the game against 10 men, so it's hard to judge them on that performance too.

  • Comment number 2.

    you would have thought if Ribery was coming in for anyone it would be Malouda.. you mention Gourcuff not having the best of times but surely Malouda falls into that category too as his form is nowhere near that of last season..

    I also dont think Jose was being shrewd at all.. I think he was being a bad coach and airing his views publicly with regards to Benzema.. he was in a win win situation.. he says these things and he starts performing he gets hailed once again for a bit of reverse psychology.. if Benzema doesnt pick up on form he gets proven right.. A real coach does his barracking behind closed doors and his praise in public.

  • Comment number 3.

    In my opinion it's nice to see a team who despite having a multitude of exceptionally talented players have underachieved even more so than the English squad. It makes me feel slightly less depressed about Englands poor performance in the world cup. And the best thing about it (speaking as a true english man) is that its the French national team.

  • Comment number 4.

    It is hard to say whether the players revolting is a lack of discipline or whether the management of the team was their downfall. Evra and Ribery are both good players and in my eyes deserve to be in the squad.

    It is a shame about Gourcuff, he was showing a lot of promise.

  • Comment number 5.

    This is a great example of what a national football centre can do for a nation's game. The quality of players emerging from England is eclipsed by Clairefontaine's conveyor belt of talent. France are definitely a team to fear for the next few years.

  • Comment number 6.

    It would be great if France could regain some form and become European powerhouse like in the 1998 and 2000 and it seems like with Blanc they may be able to do that. He seems to be focusing more on the younger players for the future unlike Domenech's awful selection of older past it players. I hope Evra is called back long-term or else it will suggest that the woes of the world cup will not be dead and buried like they should be for this France team to develop.

  • Comment number 7.

    "Blanc has made it clear that Evra will not regain the captain's armband, now worn by Diarra".

    I guess in Blanc's case, he means it - unlike Capello !!

  • Comment number 8.

    France have an excellent team. Their defence isnt what it was 10 years ago, bar Lloris. They are minus a zidane but apart from that they have superb options all over the midfield and attack. Plus they are able to pass and move a ball under pressure, something home nations are totally unable to do.

    Id back them to be a real force in the 2012 and 2014 tournos. And they will also have home advantage in 2016.

  • Comment number 9.


    Agreed. Aime jacquet was under immense pressure going into a game against romania in 1995 with the mad french press tearing strips off the country boy they perceived him to be. He had put a real focus on youth and was struggling to get reuslts..........

    He won. We all know what happened after that. Semi in 96, winners in 98 and 2000.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Most big Footballing nations (I am not English but I include England in the list), should always be managed by one of their own. This is not knock on Fabio Cappello; He has prove managership record; but managing big teams requires managing their egos, and this requires understanding of psyches player's for a particular nation and the way to communicate. Sorry if I am turning this into a discussion about England, but I can't help noticing the difference that new managers have made at France and Italy. When Capello talks in English no matter how hard he tries he comes out like a Caesar or a Don.

    Before someone mentions Steve Mclrean or Domenic, I am not saying that choosing a manager of same nationality always brings success, but they will at least relate better with players and understand how to better communicate with players.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think France should get Cantona in as manager to kick start a new improved squad.

  • Comment number 13.

    @ Distin_the_night_away

    Shouldn't you be in lessons? What time do schools close these days!


  • Comment number 14.

    13. What kind of beast wants to know what time schools close?

    PS, please stop stalking me. It seems that every comment I make on these blogs is very quickly abused by you, and I'm actually quite scared now especially given your penchant for weird questions.

    Do I win an award for getting the word "penchant" in a blog about french footy by the way? Lololollolololololo

  • Comment number 15.

    France have some exciting young players, the likes of Benzema, Nasri, Menez, Gourcouff, M'Vila and Remy to name a few. If Blanc can mould these together then the future looks bright. They've also brought back two experienced world class individuals in Evra and Ribery. For all they did wrong at the WC, they would get into most teams in the world. Fashion them into a team who can play, and it seems like he can, then I think France can put their dreadful South Africa bahind them. My only concern would be the defence, which doesn't seem as strong as other areas and could be a weakness.

    Unlike England, they seem to be trying to learn from their WC mistakes, taking a chance with younger players and relying less on previous incumbants. I would like to see England use their up and coming players more,the likes of Wilshere, Rodwell, Young, even giving Smalling a chance after impressive performances for United. WE can't do much more poorly than currently.

  • Comment number 16.


    LOL :P

  • Comment number 17.

    2. At 13:13pm on 23rd Mar 2011, Mikey wrote:

    you would have thought if Ribery was coming in for anyone it would be Malouda.. you mention Gourcuff not having the best of times but surely Malouda falls into that category too as his form is nowhere near that of last season..

    I also dont think Jose was being shrewd at all.. I think he was being a bad coach and airing his views publicly with regards to Benzema.. he was in a win win situation.. he says these things and he starts performing he gets hailed once again for a bit of reverse psychology.. if Benzema doesnt pick up on form he gets proven right.. A real coach does his barracking behind closed doors and his praise in public.
    this is the best comment i have read anywhere today.
    indeed what jose was doing with benzema was no reverse psychology. it was foolishness. the fact that benzema is doing well is entirely due to his determination and his quality as a player. which he has had from his lyon days. he didnt become a bad player overnight?
    jose did same with ballotelli(though i admit he is an incorrigible young lad). i think players deserve the respect and support of their coaches.(at least in public)

  • Comment number 18.

    Laurent Blanc has done very well with the squad he inherited from the clown Domenech, and thankfully he actually made our bunch of youngsters turn into a quite good team.

    It's still a bit soon to judge, but so far the evidence is that the French team is going in the right direction. The recall of Ribéry (and Evra) were undue in my mind, he had actually built a team with all the youngsters, fresh and motivated to play for the blue shirt, but now he's bringing back a very disruptive element in Ribéry (part of the reason Gourcuff was so anonymous during the WC was because he was regularly bullied by Ribéry).

    Evra has only been called back because of Abidal's recent operation (I wish him a quick and thorough recovery), but the whole of France portrayed him as the main culprit of the fiasco in South Africa when Domenech was the only reason the squad literally exploded. If Blanc and Evra have made peace on the situation, good for them but I think that we'll start going in the wrong direction because of these two's recall.

    Nevertheless, Laurent Blanc has done a fabulous job of rebuilding the squad so far. This team has the potential of reaching great heights, and I sincerely hope they go on to become European or World Champions in the near future.

    Comparing that to the current situation of England, I have to say it's quite hilarious. For all the so-called lower quality of the Ligue 1 in France, they've been able to assemble what actually looks like a good football-playing team. England, on the other hand, seem happy to keep cloggers and journeymen who don't care about the country one bit. The funnier part is that the English press genuinely think England have a chance of winning a major event.

  • Comment number 19.

    Domenech ran an absolute train wreck of a WC campaign, surpassing the English, and no surprise that things have picked up for the French after this guy left. The same man who complained long and loud about how lucky we were to beat them at Hampden and how this would never ever ever happen in Paris. Until it did of course and Scotland beat them again in Paris. Superb. Couldn't have happened to a better daftie!

    But apart from their opening game you really would have expected them to beat the likes of Bosnia and Luxembourg quite comfortably. Beating Romania was a good result but at home I think. And they will comforably beat Luxembourg again this week.

    Friendlies don't count, especially against a 10-man Brazil and lacklustre England.

  • Comment number 20.

    The world cup was a shambles, but it often takes something major to set things off back in the right direction. Similar to Germany after Euro 2000. France have some talented players, they just need to unite behind Blanc, who is obviously a talented manager.

  • Comment number 21.

    19. At 14:26pm on 23rd Mar 2011, Rob04 wrote:

    ...Friendlies don't count, especially against a 10-man Brazil and lacklustre England.

    I watched both games and France were Comfortably the better team the Whole 90 mins. Should have been more than 1-0 v Brazil, and certainly against England (who only had 10 mins of good possession and got a goal back).

    Give Lolo enought time, and he'll surely bring the best out of this French squad, they have quality and probably 2nd best (behind spain) in terms of 'metrise de jeu'..

    France will feature greatly in the Euros, but my prediction is that they'll be at their very best in 2014-16.

    Good to see Ribery and Evra back in the squad, wish Abidal all the very best with his recovery.

  • Comment number 22.

    A breath of fresh air does wonders! when i'd seen how my team played and behave both on and have the pitch i was throughly ashamed. These players are quality players one who can raise to the uptiome of football glory and yea the management must also comes into consideration. However i do feel that Les Bleus is moving in the right direction they have not turn the corner by any stretch of the imagination but they are on course...I should think that we will bet lex by 3 goals the key for me is the defence and its mentality blanc needs to ensure he have a good look in that area. as for franck and evra called up well i do understand the implications they had in recent times i do hope they can put the past behind em and TO ARMS YE MEN Grab your weapons, citizens!
    Form your batallions!
    Let us march! Let us march!
    May impure blood
    Water our fields!
    or score a ton of goals lol....

    PST=> am sick of ppl writing on and on and on about english football this is ABOUT THE FRENCH TEAM seriously ? wth **total*ly confused as to why u lots keep mentioning england***

  • Comment number 23.


    People keep writing about the England team because this is primarily a British website, so a lot of users wil be English, and like France, England had a poor WC and are trying to rebuild. They keep being mentioned as a comparison between the two and how poor England look as opposed to France, especially in the friendly they played against each other. It was inevitable that would happen on a blog about French rebuilding because they look to have come out of 2010's disaster in better shape, depsite the early slip up against Belarus, whereas England have barely changed anything and still look rather lacklustre and ineffectual at breaking teams down or against superior technical sides like France.

  • Comment number 24.

    @2 .
    A real coach does his barracking behind closed doors and his praise in public.
    oh really? like who, Arsene? who consistently blame luck for his teams lazy heartless outings than hold his butterflies accountable. Jose is honest and a winner,respect that.Benzema was slacking and he called him out

  • Comment number 25.

    Who cares about France...........

    After all they were only at the last World Cup after a dubious goal against Ireland.

    and Now ...... they have got their just desserts by reaping what they have sown

  • Comment number 26.

    12. At 13:54pm on 23rd Mar 2011, howardami wrote:
    I think France should get Cantona in as manager to kick start a new improved squad.
    Or they could stick with a bright young talented manager like Blanc? Rather than a preening self important clown who played a part in a poor period for French football and when he left the national team they started to win things!

  • Comment number 27.

    There are two players France would do well to shunt aside, Gourcuff and Toulalan.....I watched them in the champions league game vs Real, in both games they were a real let down, France had better not field them.

  • Comment number 28.

    # 24 Clearly you have a problem with Arsene Wenger.. I think you should address that on your own rather than take my post as an excuse to air your views.. I think we all agree on Arsene needing to break his staunch system now and again but no one can argue with his past achievements or ability with players and tactics.. so yes I would categorise him as a 'good coach'

    hopefully you are not eating or drinking when you read my reply as choking may occur.

    Jose is a great manager but anyone who doesnt think he behaves like an eejit at times is kidding themselves.

  • Comment number 29.

    ...... they have got their just desserts by reaping what they have sown

    They have refreshed their team and on the evidence so far it doesn't appear to be too much of a punishment!!

  • Comment number 30.

    @ 28.
    offcourse Arsene is a great coach( get off the past glories though). But questioning Jose's methods which has worked everywhere he's been to is a bit out there, innit?
    If it was Arsene people would probably say its psycological. Benzema has picked up his game, so it worked.

  • Comment number 31.

    Gourcuff has been a huge disappointment at Lyon. He probably gets games in the OL midfield, ahead of Pjanic, purely to justify his transfer fee and to please the sponsors. Maybe he will come good next season with a better coach in place (Pu-el Dé-miss-ion!). Maybe.

  • Comment number 32.

    For me the reality has been, you can't really say how a national team is going to do until after qualifying, as some really just do whats necessary until the tournament. I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting that France (or England for that matter) won't qualify but when you are down to the short strokes against Spain Germany Brazil Argentina etc. Do you fancy either France or England against those teams when its do or die? Hmmm.

  • Comment number 33.

    The France - Brazil QF in 2006 set them off on their way to the final. They were hopeless in the group stages in Germany. And beat a Portugal that was then much better than it is now. But talking of England, I totally agree. We're destined for the odd fluke like Germany in 2002 qualifiers, or Holland in Euro 96.

  • Comment number 34.

    post 32
    when you are down to the short strokes against Spain Germany Brazil Argentina etc. Do you fancy either France or England against those teams when its do or die?


    France for me

  • Comment number 35.

    There's enough blame to go round in France's WC meltdown. From what I can gather, Domenech is a four star clown. But any group with the slightest sense, tact, or empathy would never have acted the way they did. It was one of the more spectacular examples of bunker mentality, to me--thinking that people are going to take your side, which they evidently did, rather than expect multimillionaire players to do the best they could to represent their country.

    I also noted France looked comfortably better than Brazil, and felt it demonstrated both that France's very talented team is back to firing on all cylinders, and that Brazil continues to lose its way. I hate France, as a general rule, but was pleased on some level to see they've recovered from their collective insanity.

  • Comment number 36.

    8 - You say France are missing 'a Zidane'; indefinite article, if any player deserves to be referred to using the definite article, it is The Zidane, and he will never be replaced.

  • Comment number 37.

    Anything is possible I guess. But I put France in the second tier along with Italy, England, Holland (who I think over achieved last time out)- nothing to be ashamed of and there is no doubt they have some strong players who on their day can make a difference, but not in every position. Ribbery for example - if you've watched Bayern this year, he has just been adequate since coming back into the team. Evra is not as strong as he was two or three years ago with MU, Anelka is starting to get long in the tooth, Gourcouff was very mediocre with Milan and apparently hasn't progressed much since, Benzema is a good player but most RM fans will tell you Higuain is the better finisher- so personally I don't see them as world champions but I think they'll be in last 16.

  • Comment number 38.

    "I also noted France looked comfortably better than Brazil" (I meant when Brazil had 11 men as well as when they had 10)

  • Comment number 39.

    Under domenech they were a complete joke, i don't know how he managed to keep his position for so long. They didn't seem to have a way of playing or a specific style or tactics on how they wanted to play. Under Blanc however, they do look a very good side, i saw an interview with both him and malouda and a few other players where they were talking about their football philosophy and how they wanted to play. Blanc said that he wants to play football the right way, to get the ball down and pass and move it and keep possession and play good attacking exciting football and score goals. I was really happy to hear this, Blanc also said that most pplayers want to play this way and are generally excited when a manager birngs in this philosophy, so why don't more teams do it???? Nasri and Gourcuff are going to be key for france as they are the main playmakers in the team, malouda valbuena and ribery provide the pace and trickery, and they have many defensive defensive midfielders such as alou diarra lassana diarra m'villa etc. They also have good attacking options in benzema gignac remy. The future looks bright as Blanc is a very intelligent coach who is also very young yet immensely experienced and it is good that he is wanting to play football the right way and i think france will become a real force in international football once again.

  • Comment number 40.

    During the WC Domenech hardly spoke to the players: he didn't give them any game plans, only stood and watched at training sessions - who wouldn't revolt against that?

    Blanc really learned what coaching and real management is about under Sir Alex, when Blanc played for MU. He likes to get close to his players, and it seems to work. My only problem with him is he left Bordeaux (my team) in a mess after the French Football Fed had offered him the France job at Christmas, but told him to keep it secret!. His mind was elsewhere (obviously).

    As for Gourcouff, he shone under Blanc at Bordeaux, but then went off the boil just as Blanc did and hasn't been the same since.

  • Comment number 41.

    btw, one of the first things Blanc did as manager of France was to bring in The Zidane to talk to the players about his pride at wearing the French shirt. Blanc told his players "if you don' t agree with Zizi then leave now". (Management skills).

  • Comment number 42.

    I always find with much amusement the demise of the french national team. Wasn't it in 2002 they were sent packing in the group stage? Did they not reach the following World Cup final though (2006)?

    One intersesting fact i can remember when i was about 15 or 16, was that when Blanc played for Man you, there was an article in one of the dailly newspapers.

    B=Bolton, L=Liverpool, A=Arsenal, N=Newcastle, C=Chelsea

    These were the games blanc played in ( i even think they were in the first few months of the season) and Man you lost them all.

    I love that fact!!

    Lionel Charbonnier

  • Comment number 43.

    29. At 16:28pm on 23rd Mar 2011, Rob04 wrote:
    ...... they have got their just desserts by reaping what they have sown

    They have refreshed their team and on the evidence so far it doesn't appear to be too much of a punishment!!


    About as refreshing as a 'naff' bottle of wine and a one legged frogs leg

  • Comment number 44.


    But good enough to beat what's in front of them all the same.

  • Comment number 45.

    I kind of want the french team to bounce back but I kind of don't want them to. (well I am english so..) They have a lot of talented players (like England) and they CAN play well together (unlike England) so I think that they probably will bounce back. It was smart to bring back Evra and Ribery because they are both very talented players. This is all I have to say.

  • Comment number 46.

    i think it's always disappointing to see talented teams such as france-and england- play so poorly at major competitions such as the world cup. it's one month every 4 years where the worlds best players (minus giggs!) are all on show, so when they turn up and play badly it's disappointing.

    i would rather see all the top teams inc. england, france, spain, brazil, germany, holland play their best football at the big competitions, than see them fail and go home early.

    one more thing...evra is a god

  • Comment number 47.

    France have an abundance of quality, and several players just about teetering at the edges of becoming world class. I'm thinking M'Villa, Menez, Lloris, Nasri. Will have to wait and see about Benzema, but if anyone can get the best of him it's Mourinho. One of two big egos or underperformers can be left out with little harm, and let them watch from the sidelines and see if they are inspired to get their act together.

    As an international manager you can do nothing about club form, and the player's confidence going into your squad. A bunch of big players, just by coincidence, have struggled at club level to reach their potential. Blanc's job is to create a coherent tactical set up using his player's best assets and keep the mood good.

    For all the stereotypes about French egos, I really think the blame for 2010 lays with Domenech. Yes, there are big egos there who acted wrongly, but these are players that for the most of their careers have had club managers able to manage them and get the best of them. Part of managing is knowing how to deal with spoiled and egotistic footballers.

    Much as it may chide the English, the French and Germans look very exciting at the moment.

  • Comment number 48.

    "Chide"? No. Mistake by me.

  • Comment number 49.

    My point still stands you are the one bringing Wenger into the argument for no apparent reason..

    and I will question Mourinho as I think this time he was being a bad coach and doing so in public but he has carte blanche in the majority of the publics eye because of his achievements

  • Comment number 50.

    France have got some good young players coming through and if they gel as a team they will be a force to be reckoned with.
    It seems as though Laurent Blanc has got the respect of the players (having played the game and being a World Cup Winner) something that Domenech never had. Some of his tactics and decisions were just weird...I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did....maybe this was down to the bigwigs at the FFF...funnily enough we (England) are going through a similar period right now...Time for a change at FA HQ..and below..

  • Comment number 51.

    If Alou Diarra is captain and presumably first choice then the quality is definately not what it used to be. However Blanc is showing that he is able to motivate and inspire a team, so for that reason I believe they will do well. It seems he is complimenting a solid base with some attacking talent, especially through Benzema and Ribery.

    They will do well as then ivariably have done since 1980

  • Comment number 52.

    The French are lucky to have 'big egos' as their only problem .. Blanc should be able to handle that problem n once tackled the French Team will be back to its best.

  • Comment number 53.

    I have to say the blame for the fiasco lies clearly and squarely with Domenech. France got to the World cup Finale against Italy, thanks to Zidane, and in spite of Domenech. He was a terrible man manager, he was a lousy tactician, and the fiasco was one that was unavoidable the longer he was in a job. The players had zero respect for him, so it was no surprise to me to see it blow up. I work and live in France, I don't sense any blame towards the players, but a lot of animosity towards the ex coach. France are moving in the right direction, they have fantastic players, and a decent bloke who has been to the heights, and served with the best a manager and player. Laurent Blanc might not win the World cup as a manager, but he will be there or there abouts. The shame of it all is that I think with the French manager, the French team should have won an awful lot more in the last decade.

  • Comment number 54.

    Bring back 606 on match day

  • Comment number 55.

    Mourinho showing shrewd man-management? not in this case- he slated Benzema and brought in Adebayor for a reason, and that was simply that he didnt want to play Benzema. The way he plays is not suited to the only style Mourinho is really comfortable with, which involves playing off the long ball to the big man up front. Adebayor suits this fine, but he isnt half the player Benzema is. Mourinho had to create a reason for playing Adebayor, the fans and board at Real hold the coach much more accountable for match day decisions.

    it backfired, and Real get the best of it.

  • Comment number 56.

    the "Zidane-Deschamps era"

    What is that??????????????? Deschamps was an irrelevance. He sat in front of the back four fouling people. France had a dozen players who could do that and they would have still been successful.

    @51. At 09:42am on 24th Mar 2011, tomefccam wrote:

    "If Alou Diarra is captain and presumably first choice then the quality is definately not what it used to be."

    See my previous comments about Deschamps. Alou Diarra is a far better player than Deschamps.

    That said, Blanc is a questionable replacement for Le Clown. The way he ended his last season with Bordeaux was pathetic and really calls into question his quality as a manager. Deschamps has shown more as a coach than Blanc.

  • Comment number 57.

    44. At 20:25pm on 23rd Mar 2011, Rob04 wrote:

    But good enough to beat what's in front of them all the same.


    Forgetting the World Cup 2010, where France lost against Mexico & South Africa, I fail to see the logic in your comment with the Euro Qualifiers;

    Lost to home to Belarus in August last year.........
    Won against Boznia, Romania, and Luxembourg is hardly "good enough to beat what's in front of them"

  • Comment number 58.


    I completely disagree.

    Deschamps was a teriffic player, and captained a very good team to champions league glory in 1993 at a really young age.

    He won a ECL medal with Juventus in 1996 and captained his country to World Cup and Euro success.

    Diarra has never played anywhere near this level domestically or on the Champions League stage, he was deemed not good enough to break through earlier in his career at Bayern Munich or Liverpool.

    It is a flawed point you make. Yes Diarra may have a wider array of skills, but this doesn't make him a better player - as Deschamps was arguably the best player of his generation as a holding midfielder. As a leader he proved to be a true inspiration.

    Stan Collymore was a better skilled footballer than Deschamps also, but a better player - I don't think so.

  • Comment number 59.

    @RVPersie - France has underachieved even more so than the England squad?!? As a proud Frenchman (and an anglophile might I add), I have to disagree. France won the World Cup in 1998, won the Euro in 2000 and went to the final of the World Cup back in 2006. I live in England and I want England to long as they don't play against France. Let's be honest though...what has England achieved in that time?!?

  • Comment number 60.

    Won against Boznia, Romania, and Luxembourg is hardly "good enough to beat what's in front of them

    I think you will find that it is self-evidently good enough!

  • Comment number 61.

    At 56 & 58- Cantona described Deschamps as a 'water carrier'. People have mistakenly interpreted that as an insult.

    It was not an insult. He didn't mean that Deschamps was a waterboy or an irrelevance. Cantona meant that Deschamps was the lungs of the side, and he was the engine for the team in midfield, keeping the team fuelled. Deschamps was indeed a fantastic player, and not a fouler. Deschamps and Blanc were both great players- it's a shame that we only saw them play in this country for Chelsea and Man Utd when they were past their peak.

  • Comment number 62.

    Blanc has made it clear that Evra will not regain the captain's armband, now worn by Diarra".

    I guess in Blanc's case, he means it - unlike Capello !!

    I guess we will see if Diarra has a long term injury that keeps him out, otherwise not relevant

  • Comment number 63.

    The public has not forgiven Ribery and Evra, let alone have the footballing experts, they've been under attack since Blanc selected them. Just see the comments of Thierry Roland, Larque, Courbis and others.

    Ribery in the line up at the expense of Gourcuff? Two totally different players. Ribery can play on the left or the right but prefers the left (Malouda's position).

    Gourcuff plays more as a holding midfielder or deep playmaker, right next to either M'Vila or Diarra. In terms of competition for his position, it comes from either Diaby or Cabaye. Even when those two are available Blanc has always started him. In any case, for the game against Luxembourg, Blanc kind of confirmed that he will play behind Nasri. Just like against England, where they were interchangeable, if Nasri went forward, Gourcuff withdrew or vice versa.

    In regards to the starting lineup, it is very likely to be:

    Lloris - Evra, Rami, Mexès, Sagna - Mvila, Gourcuff - Ribéry, Nasri, Malouda - Benzema

    This is the side Blanc has been working with every training session at Clairefontaine and when queried about it, he didn't deny it.

    As for 'erratic' performances, Against Brasil, he provided Benzema with four clear cut chances that he fluffed. Against Luxembourg, he provided the assist for Benzema and scored the second goal. Could have had more goals but he was rated player of the match by much of the French media and when Benzema was officially given man of the match, he was whistled by the crowd because they believed Gourcuff was more deserving.

  • Comment number 64.

    Ive already put £10 on France to win 2014 World Cup when they were 20-1. They have so much talent like Sakho, M'Vila, M'Bengue, Areola, Boucher & Rami and they have a great leader at the helm. They look a different side to the embarrassment of World Cup 2010 and I fully believe that they will cause some shocks next year.

  • Comment number 65.

    Evra is indeed quality and it's nice to see him back, but what does that tell of Clichy and Aly Cissoko who are both quality left-backs? That Blanc still doesn't trust them? With those three (and Abidal, who's been used in the centre as well) he's supposed to have some sort of a selection headache. Strangely it seems there's no discussion on that matter!

  • Comment number 66.

    Wow. I can't believe I read this entire blog without super Samir Nasri's name being mentioned! Not once! Please care to explain? x

  • Comment number 67.

    Its just the new start for the French team. What happen in the pass is over, they have turned a new page and that is Blanc is the head of that new page. In due time those guys will make all their France supporters happy and enjoy to watch them play once more thanks to Blanc.

  • Comment number 68.

    Evra's recall is not forced - his form is clearly outstanding.

  • Comment number 69.

    "benefiting from shrewd psychology of both club coach Jose Mourinho"

    No wonder Mourinho wants to come back here, even his mistakes are classed as brilliant moves. Mourinho never had faith in Benzema and was reluctant to use him, he was forced to by injuries, Benzema has proved Mourinho wrong, it wasn't mind games or psychology, he didn't rate him and made sure everyone knew it, now he looks foolish everyone in England say oh brilliant mind games by Mourinho.

  • Comment number 70.

    It's obvious that football is going through a transitional period in general- except Spain, that's what the WC is there to show. This is Spain's little era for now, with Italy, France etc taking the backseats. If only Spain had Mesi xD

    Germany are very exciting though, they can always potentially win anything, I still think their reserved performance against Spain was a mystery.

    But credit to France, Benzema and Ribery in particular have real talent, and the whole French team are recovering as a unit in general.

  • Comment number 71.

    Team spirit and management seems to be of more importance now, the iconic figures from 10 years ago will take some time to equal yet. Messi is the only real standout one now, but his team couldn't support him to a WC trophy, and he is not French or Spanish so no show at 2012 for him and us.

    But 2014 is sometime away, so a lot of time for more giants to fully emerge.

  • Comment number 72.

    66. At 00:56am on 25th Mar 2011, Bergkamp_10 wrote:
    Wow. I can't believe I read this entire blog without super Samir Nasri's name being mentioned! Not once! Please care to explain? x

    I was reading the comments and was gonna complain about the same thing. Against England he was even better than Benzema, ran the show, making our midfield look slow and out of touch. This season him and Wilshere have been Arsenal's best players, they look in a different class. Arguably one of the few players with a good enough touch and movement to get in the Barca side.

  • Comment number 73.

    OK, it’s just under three hours before the kick off as I write this, and L’Equipe reckon that Laurent Blanc will start with the following team:
    Lloris; Sagna, Rami, Mexès, Evra; A. Diarra (cap); Gourcuff; Ribéry, Nasri, Malouda; Benzema.

    There is a fitness question mark over Diarra, who might be replaced by M’vila. In that case, Lloris or Mexès would be the captain.

    It looks like Blanc is going to stick with Gourcoff despite the other options available to him and the Lyon player’s patchy form.

    I’m looking forward to see how Ribery performs on his comeback, but also to see what Nasri can do. I don’t think the Luxembourg defenders are going to be able to contain him too often.

  • Comment number 74.

    First of all, many thanks to everyone who contributed. I really enjoyed reading the comments this week, there was a lot of interesting thoughts coming in.

    Weezer316: “Their defence isn’t what it was 10 years ago, bar Lloris.” It might not stand comparison with the defences that won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 but I can only see the Spain and Germany defences as being any better among European teams at the moment.

    Howardami: “I think France should get Cantona in as manager to kick start a new improved squad.” I hope you are just having a bit of provocative fun but thankfully I think he is too busy with his involvement with the New York Cosmos.

    Odooh: “Evra's recall is not forced - his form is clearly outstanding.” He has been in good form for Manchester United but I doubt he would have been recalled if Abidal had been available. As Lagellerotumblero - Show goes on after 606 says: “what does that tell of Clichy and Aly Cissoko who are both quality left-backs?” and it does surprise me that Blanc has overlooked them but now the Evra is back, I have a feeling he’s back to stay and a line really has been drawn under his role in the World Cup ‘mutiny’ regardless of the public feelings, which various people have said, still run high in some quarters.


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