With just a few days to go before France’s first Euro 2012 qualifier against Belarus, 1998 World Cup hero Zinedine Zidane visited his former teammate Laurent Blanc, now in charge of Les Bleus.
AFP - World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane joined in with 1998 teammate Laurent Blanc's new look France side on Wednesday ahead of Friday's opening Euro 2012 qualifier at home to Belarus.
On paper, the French should be favoured in their group - though they will have to look out for Romania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, their main Group D rivals.
However, such was the humiliation heaped upon the French during a nightmare World Cup this summer that new coach Blanc must start by erasing some of the lingering psychological scars after a first-round exit compounded by a training strike to protest the sending home of Nicolas Anelka.
Banned for 18 matches after his foul-mouthed outburst aimed at former coach Raymond Domenech at half-time during the loss to Mexico, Anelka is unlikely to appear again in the national shirt while skipper Patrice Evra, Jeremy Toulalan and Franck Ribery are suspended owing to their role as strike ringleaders.
But the mood lightened with Zidane's appearance as he, Blanc and assistants Alain Boghossian and Fabien Barthez attempted to infuse training with a flavour of France's glorious past, when they combined to humble Brazil at Stade de France 12 years ago.
"The main thing is to get back to winning ways - you construct a team through victories," said Zidane.
"I was here for a good cause - Lolo (Blanc) asked me to come and spend the day with this new team and I am happy to be here and pass on my experiences," Zidane added.
"But I did not make any speeches - I am not here for that. We spoke of renewal and that will come about through winning," said Zidane, who added that the squad had had a look at footage both from the 1998 World Cup and also the successful Euro 2000 campaign.
French fans were generally appalled at the events of the summer - but they were cheering loudly when a shorts-clad Zidane made his appearance to cries of "Zizou!" while some called out "a kiss for Fabien!" - during the 1998 finals in France Blanc would kiss the former keeper's bald pate for luck.
"It's great to get into the swing of things once again," said the former Real Madrid star as he left the field, pausing to sign autographs and shake hands with Aldo Platini, father of former France coach and current UEFA president Michel Platini.
Zidane was later to fly down to Madrid to hand over a cheque for 150,000 euros to a charity helping sufferers of brain disorders of which he is patron.
Date created : 2010-09-01