France could reach the Euro
2012 quarter-finals even if they lose their last Group D match
against already eliminated Sweden on Tuesday but manager Laurent
Blanc is not leaving anything to chance.
The only way France can fail to progress is if they lose to
the Swedes, Ukraine beat England and the French end up with a
worse goal difference than their old rivals. That scenario,
though, is not one Blanc has spent much time considering.
"We will respect the Swedish team even if they have already
been put out because it is always difficult to play against them
and we will prepare to win it - we won't be thinking about the
mathematical consequences," Blanc told reporters on Saturday.
His France side were impressive in their opening 1-1 draw
against England and Friday's 2-0 win over Ukraine. Those results
have left the French top of the group ahead of England on four
points, Ukraine three and Sweden none.
During the win over the co-hosts France almost literally
soaked up everything thrown at them in the Donbass Arena, which
was more than just the pressure Oleg Blokhin's Ukraine team put
them under in the first half.
A massive lightning storm caused the match to be stopped for
almost an hour shortly after it began, but when it did restart,
it was the French that coped the better with the conditions and
were the deserved winners thanks to two goals in three minutes
from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye early in the second half.
Blanc, who has consistently played down France's chances of
becoming European champions for the third time after their
triumphs of 1984 and 2000, said he allowed himself a beer - and
the players a Coke - to celebrate Friday's win.
But he added that he was not underestimating the Swedes,
even though they would just be playing for pride alone.
"I drank a good fresh beer last night," he told reporters at
his daily press briefing at Donetsk's Chamber of Commerce
"We know that we only won one game yesterday and we are
happy that we won but we must not lose sight of our goals, but
the next goal is in front of us with the next game."
Friday's result meant France ended a run of eight matches
without a win in tournament play stretching back to the 2006
World cup semi-final and extended their unbeaten run to 23
But Blanc thought at one stage the match would not be
completed after referee Bjorn Kuipers called the players off
after five minutes because of the thunder and lightning.
"I wasn't afraid of the weather, of course, but rather I was
more concerned the game could be called off. I thought with that
amount of water on the pitch it would no longer be playable and
the game could not restart," he said.
"I was surprised the pitch had been cleared of water in an
hour and brought up to standard and in the end we saw a great
game after all."
The changes Blanc made to his team - bringing in the quicker
Menez for Malouda and replacing Patrice Evra with Gael Clichy at
the back - contributed to an encouraging performance by France,
who look set to take their place in the quarter-finals.
England striker puts pen to paper on permanent deal
The new season is but six weeks away (in the Football League)
Toon upheaval continues in style
Spurs move for former England assistant manager
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010