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All eyes on France coach Blanc ahead of key Romania clash

Text by Emmanuel VERSACE

Latest update : 2010-10-09

After 99 days as manager of France’s national football team, Laurent Blanc now has to prove himself. Les Bleues are set to face off against Romania Saturday in a Euro 2012 qualifier at Stade de France at 9pm Paris time.

When France faces Romania on Saturday night, it will mark exactly 99 days since Laurent Blanc was named manager of the French national football team. Upon his arrival, the former Bordeaux manager promised different results following the French team’s World Cup debacle in South Africa. Out of three matches with Blanc as manager, “les Bleus” lost two (including one friendly against Norway), but won against Bosnia-Herzegovina. If that seems like a mixed record, the trend is positive, as the team’s performance against Bosnia was their strongest since a qualifying match against Costa Rica last May.

Backstage changes

To get to where he is, Laurent Blanc seems to have been inspired by French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign theme: breaking with the past. Change was first implemented behind the scenes, with a shake-up of existing staff. Only Alain Boghossian, who had joined the staff toward the end of Raymond Domenech’s time as manager, was kept in place. The return of old staff members – Henri Emile as athletic coordinator and Philippe Tournon as press attaché – indicates an effort to recapture the magic of France’s World Cup-winning team from 1998. The presence of Fabien Barthez, formerly goalkeeper for the1998 team, as an advisor to the French team’s goalkeepers confirms this.

Better communication

Communication is the second pillar of Blanc’s strategy. After the secrecy maintained by Domenech, “les Bleus” are going for a more open-book approach. Blanc has made the rounds of French media to explain his football philosophy, but above all to try and erase France's traumatising experience at the 2010 World Cup. The players have been asked to stop talking to the press after matches and during training sessions. The new transparency is nevertheless accompanied by stricter rules imposed by the team’s press service. Laurent Blanc only has 20 minutes to address journalists at press conferences, and the players will have to be photographed in front of posters of official team sponsors. Meanwhile, off-the-cuff or unusual questions from journalists will be prohibited.

New faces on the field

On the field, apart from the absence of four players considered to be among the worst behaved last summer in South Africa, new faces have replaced more familiar ones. Gone are William Gallas, Thierry Henry, and Sydney Govou, making room for a new generation (Jérémy Menez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema) that had been kept on the sidelines by Domenech. The return of Philippe Mexès, punished after defensive errors in 2008 against Austria, and the arrival of young talents (Adil Rami, Kevin Gameiro) have drastically altered the face of the team, which is still struggling to re-conquer French spectators disgusted by the summer debacle. After winning over a large segments of the media and public with his rigorous new methods, Laurent Blanc will have the chance Saturday to proceed to the second phase of his plan: winning.

Date created : 2010-10-08


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