PARIS - One year after their World Cup
fiasco, France are confident they are now on the right path
despite some defensive woes as they travel to Romania for a Euro
2012 qualifier on Tuesday.
Les Bleus, who were knocked out in the first round in South
Africa following some risible performances on and off the pitch,
have dramatically improved up front although they looked shaky
at the back in Friday's 2-1 win in Albania.
Coach Laurent Blanc, however, refused to panic.
"We had a very very tricky second half... but we should not
be that negative. We did win that game, right?," Blanc asked
"It was a much better performance that [last year] against
Belarus," he added referring to France 1-0 home defeat to
Belarus in their Group D opener.
France are now top of the standings with 16 points from
seven matches, three points ahead of Bosnia. Romania lie fourth,
five points off the pace.
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema was at his brilliant best
against Albania, scoring one goal and setting up another in the
opening 20 minutes but the French defence struggled throughout.
They were without centre-backs Philippe Mexes, who is
injured, and Adil Rami, who was suspended but could be back to
"I said before the game that a good defence was important.
We should have been better [against Albania]," said Blanc.
The coach is likely to field right-back Bacary Sagna instead
of Anthony Reveillere, after the Arsenal player recovered from a
virus, while Eric Abidal, with Philippe Mexes injured, is set to
keep his place in central defence alongside Rami or Younes
"[Sagna] is much better. Will he be at 100 percent? We can
think so. I hope he will be fit," said Blanc, who could also be
tempted to grant Marvin Martin a starting spot in place of the
disappointing Florent Malouda in the midfield.
Romania beat Luxembourg 2-0 on Friday to keep alive their
slim chances of qualifying but France will be a tougher nut to
Coach Victor Piturca, who returned to the national team in
the summer, was optimistic about Romania's chances against
France, despite losing Gabriel Torje, who scored both goals in
Luxembourg, to suspension.
"For my debut to be a success we must have a good result
against France," Piturca told Romania's ProTV.
"Any player that walks on the field against France must be
motivated. I think... we could have a good result."
France will finish their qualifying campaign with home games
against Bosnia and Albania next month.
Romania - Ciprian Tatarusanu; Romeo Surdu, Razvan Rat,
Vasile Maftei, Cosmin Contra; Ciprian Marica, Cristian Tanase,
Bogdan Stancu, Dorin Goian, Razvan Cocis; Florin Gardos.
France - Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, Adil Rami, Eric Abidal,
Patrice Evra; Alou Diarra, Yann Mvila, Marvin Martin, Samir
Nasri, Franck Ribery; Karim Benzema.
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