After an unconvincing draw against Romania, France face a far tougher test in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Serbia, amid doubts over the leadership of Raymond Domenech. A win would help Les Bleus avoid the play-offs.
AFP - Serbia coach Radomir Antic has warned his French counterpart Raymond Domenech to be ready for a scorching reception as his side prepare for a match of historic importance on Wednesday night.
The Serbs will be looking to seal a berth in the World Cup finals for the first time as an independent nation.
A feeling of euphoria has already gripped the city with Antic and his players promising that France will have their work cut out in the heated atmosphere of the 52,000-seater Marakana stadium.
Antic believes the Serbs are more than a match for 2006 World Cup runners-up France, who need to win to keep their bid for automatic qualification alive.
France's hopes suffered another blow in Paris on Saturday night when the 1998 world champions were held to a 1-1 draw by Romania in their Group Seven qualifier.
And Antic, who travelled to Paris to watch the match, admitted he was not impressed by what he saw from France, who trail the Serbs by four points.
"The French dominated the first half, but that's a consequence of the tactical choice of the Romanian coach.
"My feeling is that France don't have an alternative solution in the absence of Franck Ribery (who started on the bench on Saturday). At the back (Julien) Escude seemed quite slow to me.
"My players sent me to Paris to come back with a draw. That's done. The ball is in our court now."
Striker Milan Jovanovic warned that the Serbian 'Eagles' would give their last drop of blood to book their ticket to South Africa.
"I'm 27 years old and like some of my team-mates I've never competed in a World Cup. That says everything about my motivation," the Standard Liege player told AFP.
"We'll be supported by 52,000 fans. The French are right to be wary of that atmosphere because it will be very, very hot. Our fans can sing for 90 minutes. They know how to pile on the pressure.
"The coach (Domenech) has obviously not yet found the right format. He's having problems finding the right pieces for the puzzle," added Jovanovic, known as the 'Snake' for his ability to get through his rivals' defences.
Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic called on his team-mates to remain cool.
"I see that the atmosphere in Serbia is euphoric, which is normal for our country, but we have to remain calm and focused," he said.
Embattled Domenech will also be calling for calm, amid reports his players have lost confidence in his leadership.
On Monday, the daily Parisien reported that stalwart Thierry Henry told the coach on the eve of the Romania tie, in front of the entire team: "We don't know how to play, where to place ourselves, how to organise ourselves. We don't know what to do. We have no style, no direction, no identity."
AFter receiving a vote of confidence from French Football Federation (FFF) president Jean-Pierre Escalettes, Domenech insisted that all was well in the French camp.
"The atmosphere is wonderful," Domenech said Monday on the FFF website.
"With what we're experiencing - the debates, the discussions, what we're managing to create, the 'asides' in the life of a footballer - that creates an exceptional atmosphere.
"What counts is that this transfers onto the pitch: from what I saw on the pitch on Saturday, no-one can doubt that in this group there is one soul and the same desire."
His campaign will be boosted by the news that playmaker Ribery (calf) and defender Escude (thigh) are back in training after receiving knocks at the weekend.
Serbia lead France by four points in Group Seven with just three matches remaining so victory on Wednesday for the hosts would leave coach Domenech and the French scrambling to make the finals in South Africa next year via the play-offs.
Date created : 2009-09-09