France hope for Serbian slip-up in race to qualify

France are expected to roll over the Faroe Islands in their penultimate qualifier, but all eyes will be on the clash between group leaders Serbia and Romania. Les Bleus trail Serbia by four points in the race to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.


AFP - Thierry Henry has called on his France team-mates to produce a rousing performance in their last two World Cup qualifying matches, starting with the visit of minnows the Faroe Islands on Saturday.

Les Bleus have stumbled through their qualification campaign and appear destined for a place in the play-offs, but Henry says that there is still work to be done.

"If we don't go to the World Cup, everyone will suffer from it," the Barcelona forward told sport daily L'Equipe on Thursday.

"But it's all down to us. It's up to us to give people reason to believe in the team again."

France trail Serbia by four points in European qualifying group seven and the Serbs can secure top spot and a place at the World Cup if they win at home to Romania on Saturday.

A brave performance earned France a 1-1 draw against Serbia in their last outing, after goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had been sent off early in the first half, and Henry believes the nature of that display has given his side heart.

"I said that we needed a match to set a benchmark," he said. "Even though we didn't win, the match in Serbia might be it.

"The way the game unfolded made me realise that this team has a soul. We were looking for ourselves and I hope we've now found ourselves."

Goals have been in short supply for the 1998 world champions in recent months, with just six scored in their last nine matches.

Injury has also robbed them of two of their most creative players, as Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery has been sidelined by tendinitis and Bordeaux playmaker Yoann Gourcuff is out with a hamstring problem.

Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis was rewarded for his early-season form by being called up as Ribery's replacement, but is unlikely to start.

Coach Raymond Domenech is rumoured to be considering jettisoning his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation in favour of a 4-4-2 with Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka and Toulouse forward Andre-Pierre Gignac leading the line.

Victory for France in Guingamp will secure second place and a berth in the play-offs ahead of third-placed Austria, who travel to Paris on Wednesday, but Domenech insists automatic qualification is not an unrealistic objective.

"All I've heard for weeks is 'We're going to be in the play-offs,'" he said. "But wait. Serbia aren't guaranteed to beat Romania. We've got to score as many goals as possible to improve our goal difference and be able to say to ourselves that we tried our best."

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