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Sport

Laurent Blanc prepares for first test against Norway

Video by FRANCE 2 , Oliver FARRY

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-08-11

New France coach Laurent Blanc hopes to give the national football squad a fresh start after its humiliating World Cup performance. On Wednesday, Les Bleus will play a friendly match against Norway in Oslo (9.15pm GMT+2).

AP - Still reeling from its woeful World Cup in South Africa, France needs to restore its damaged image and will try to take a first step toward redemption in Wednesday’s friendly at Norway.

In South Africa, France exited a major tournament in the first round without winning a match for the second time in a row, and its players embarrassed the country with a training strike that caused a political outcry and made headlines around the world.

France coach Laurent Blanc, who stepped in to replace Raymond Domenech after the fiasco, said it’s time to turn the page and open a new chapter of the team’s history with a win.

“We’ll always have this World Cup scar,” Blanc said. “Only good results will allow us to rub out what happened. We are traveling to Norway aiming for the best possible result, a win.”

After deciding to drop all the World Cup players as a collective punishment for their actions in South Africa, Blanc will field an experimental team made of 13 uncapped players and 16 French league players.

In South Africa, the players refused to train as a protest after Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home following an expletive-laced tirade at Domenech.

Blanc’s decision to snub the World Cup players for his first game in charge was widely seen as a statement of intent, meaning that unlike Domenech he was not going to tolerate bad behavior in his star-studded team.

The France squad’s image also took a severe blow when two of its biggest stars _ Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema _ were handed preliminary charges last month as part of a probe into a suspected network of prostitution that operated out of a nightclub on Paris’ Champs-Elysees.

Blanc, a former Manchester United defender who won the World Cup and European Championship with France, wants to keep his players away from temptation and will ask clubs to charter flights in order to get them back immediately after their international duties.

“I don’t think it’s normal that after our games the players can vanish in the Parisian nights,” Blanc said. “I enjoyed it when I was a player but for the moment it’s better if the players go back home immediately after the match to avoid off-the-field problems.”

Once a European powerhouse, France dramatically dropped in the FIFA rankings, where it stands 21st, just above Norway. France, which won the European Championship twice and the 1998 World Cup, earned its last major title 10 years ago at Euro 2000.

“We need to do things differently compared to what happened in South Africa,” said Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra, who missed the World Cup due to stomach problems. “I’m in the state of mind of a player who comes to win titles. We need to post good results and we want to show a real collective spirit.”

Under Domenech, who established an ineffective boring style of play, France progressively lost its fan base. On the contrary, Blanc is a popular figure among the supporters who love the attacking football mentality he developed at Bordeaux.

“I really appreciate Laurent Blanc’s philosophy,” Benzema said. “He loves beautiful football and so do I.”

Against Norway, Blanc is expected to play in a classic 4-4-2 with Samir Nasri behind strikers Guillaume Hoarau and Benzema.

“I understand that people have a bad impression of us,” Nasri told France Football magazine. “It’s our task to make them change their minds. But talks are not enough anymore, we need actions.”

France will begin 2012 European Championship qualifying at home against Belarus on Sept. 3.

Norway coach Egil Olsen said it was unclear whether Aston Villa striker John Carew would play against France.

“(Carew) has pain in his knee, and we’ve sent him to get an MRI,” Norway national team physician Thor Einar Andersen said Monday.

Date created : 2010-08-10

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