PARIS - France coach Laurent Blanc has
sounded remarkably calm for a man who has lost possibly six
players from his squad for Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier at home
to Albania, where anything other than a win could knock Les
Bleus down to second in Group D.
The 1984 and 2000 winners lead Bosnia by a point but with
their rivals hosting Luxembourg on Friday before coming to Paris
on Tuesday for a potential automatic qualification shoot-out in
the last group game, Blanc could have done without injuries.
Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, arguably France's best two
attackers, were called up last week but injuries sustained while
with their clubs have ruled them out of both matches alongside
midfielder Blaise Matuidi and defender Bacary Sagna.
Striker Kevin Gameiro also looks set to sit out the Albania
game with a knee problem while Eric Abidal has a knock, not to
mention the likes of Philippe Mexes and Yoann Gourcuff who never
made the squad because of long-standing injuries.
Blanc, though, is not looking for excuses despite Benzema's
absence meaning he may consider his changing system and playing
two up front.
"The preparation for the match will be the same. I don't see
why I would have any more worries," the coach told reporters.
"They will be two very different matches but with the same
objective; to take the points and win both games. Albania are
less strong than Bosnia but I'll wait to see who I can pick."
France won 2-1 in Albania last month but the comfort of
being on familiar turf at the Stade de France is tempered
slightly by the fact their only defeat this campaign was at home
to the unheralded Belarus, 1-0 in their group opener last year.
The injury crisis has been eased somewhat by late call-ups
for striker Djibril Cisse and uncapped Valencia defender Jeremy
Mathieu but predicting Blanc's team for Friday will be difficult
for Albania's Bosnian boss Dzemal Mustedanagic.
He will be trying his utmost to do his homeland a favour but
even if France win as they should, Bosnia can still take it to
the wire with victory over Luxembourg, setting up a
mouthwatering clash next Tuesday.
Failure is unthinkable for France, who have steadily
improved under Blanc following the ignominy of being eliminated
at the 2010 World Cup group stage under Raymond Domenech amid
the mutiny scandal and Nicolas Anelka's banishment.
The loss and draw with Belarus, the 0-0 draw in Romania last
time out and the racism allegations which briefly engulfed Blanc
in May are the only blots on his record but any slip-up over the
next week, irrespective of injuries, would leave him exposed.
With France great Zinedine Zidane saying this week that he
would not rule out one day coaching the national side, Blanc has
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