Laurent Blanc's players will be hoping to make it three successive wins for the first time in as many years when they take on Luxembourg Tuesday in their fourth qualifier for the 2012 European Championships.
AP - France is looking for a third straight win when it plays Luxembourg on Tuesday to put coach Laurent Blanc's France team in pole position in European Championship qualifying after a bad start to the campaign.
Having embarrassingly lost its opening qualifier 1-0 at home to Belarus, France has tightened up at the back and started to score again. Saturday's 2-0 home win over Romania followed a 2-0 win away to Bosnia-Herzegovina. France tops Group D and beating Luxembourg should not be too problematic as confidence returns to Blanc's reinvigorated team.
After a traumatic year for French football that reached a crescendo with the World Cup debacle, Chelsea winger Florent Malouda feels things are finally settling down again now that former coach Raymond Domenech has gone.
Malouda is the only player in the current squad along with midfielder Alou Diarra who played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups under Domenech. He feels Blanc has managed to make a clean break.
"We're trying to change the way we play and (change) our mentality,'' Malouda said. ``When you get good results it makes the atmosphere so much better.''
When Blanc took over, the team was in turmoil after a World Cup training ground strike and early elimination from the tournament. Shedding the burden of France's recent past is not an overnight task, and Blanc remains circumspect as to the true potential of his team, despite beating Romania. "We'll see what the future brings,'' Blanc said. "I said the team lacked experience, and one single game won't change all that.'' France will get a better idea of how far it has come when it plays England in a friendly next month, and then Brazil in February before qualifying resumes with a trip to Luxembourg in March.
But Saturday's win at least offered Blanc an insight into the future look of his team. Midfielder Yoann Gourcuff and new talents Loic Remy and Dimitri Payet were involved in the goals against Romania, underlining how Blanc is giving young players a chance despite the pressure of qualifying.
Gourcuff's goal, set up by Payet, ended a miserable run of 22 games without scoring for the Lyon playmaker. "There was a reason for his lack of form,'' said Blanc, who relied heavily on Gourcuff to win the league title with Bordeaux three seasons ago. "There was his late transfer to Lyon, a new team, a new coach, and also a bit of the trauma (from the World Cup). So let him play his game, let himenjoy himself.''
Blanc could make changes against Luxembourg, which has only one point in Group D, while victory will give France nine. "We will have to take into consideration everyone's fitness,'' Blanc said.
Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby is likely to be given a run after recovering from a knock to his ankle, with Yann M'Vila possibly making way. Luxembourg right back Mario Mutsch plays for Metz and will be in familiar surroundings at Stade Saint-Symphorien. So will veteran defender Jeff Strasser, who spent eight seasons with the French club. "It will be very emotional for me to play in my garden,'' Mutsch said. "My family keeps asking me for tickets.''
Luxembourg lost at home to Bosnia and away to Albania before drawing 0-0 at home to Belarus. But Mutsch sees some improvement. "We don't lose 7-0 or 8-0 anymore like we did a few years ago'' Mutsch said. ``We've improved in recent years by playing much more as a unit, which gives us a better defense.''
A chronic lack of attacking weapons, however, should mean the French have little problem keeping forwards Dan Collette and Daniel Da Mota quiet. Neither of them has scored an international goal.
Date created : 2010-10-12