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Blanc looking for cohesion, and win over Romania
Published : 06 Sep 2011 02:30:15
France are expected to take another step towards automatic qualification for Euro 2012 when they face fellow Group D opponents Romania in Bucharest on Tuesday.
But as Les Bleus look to follow in the footsteps of Germany, the first qualifiers on Friday, coach Laurent Blanc has two potential problems.
One is close pursuers Bosnia-Herzegovina, who host Belarus in Zenica hoping to close their three point gap to France in the event of an upset in Bucharest.
The other is a whiff of discord from certain squad players who, since a cagey 2-1 win over Albania on Friday have been represented as being problematic by the media.
Although Blanc has been determined to create a cohesive unit from the divided squad he inherited from Raymond Domenech after the debacle of the 2010 World Cup, where the players decided to go on strike, his resolve is being tested.
After Samir Nasri's disappointing display against Albania the Manchester City midfielder has been targeted in the media, with some evoking a potential rift with Blanc.
In a column in Sunday's L'Equipe newspaper former France international Bixente Lizarazu hit out at "a player who holds on to the ball too long, slows down the game and who, in the end, by his attitude, doesn't provoke movement around him".
Blanc publicly hit out at Nasri after the midfielder's mediocre performace in Tirana, but Nasri was quick to respond in kind -- a defiant move and one after which Blanc retorted: "I think he should do his talking on the pitch."
Nasri missed selection for the 2010 World Cup, two years after he was accused by William Gallas of insolently trying to disrespect the more senior players in the squad at the 2008 Euro.
Heading into the Romania game, Nasri could find himself on the bench and replaced by Marvin Martin, for whom he was substituted late in the Albania game.
Blanc has also recently stated he could be forced to stamp his authority over an ongoing disagreement between Florent Malouda and Frank Ribery over who has the right to play on the left wing.
For the moment, Ribery has been given the benefit of the doubt -- and allowed to play on his favoured left wing, with Malouda, who was unimpressive on Friday, a possible substitute on Tuesday.
But after a mediocre performance from the Bayern man on Friday, Blanc, when questioned about the issue Saturday, warned: "I think Malouda can play on the right just as Ribery can play on the right.
"We'll see. If I have to make a final decision, I will."
Blanc will be happy to welcome back central defender Adil Rami, who was suspended for the Albania match, whom he could pair with Eric Abidal in central defence for Romania.
Romania meanwhile will look to seize upon any discord in the French camp to continue their bid to finish second.
The hosts currently sit fourth in the group on 11 points, with a game in hand on Belarus (12 points), and will be looking for another three after victory against Luxembourg on Friday.
Victory would be Romania's first over France since a 2-0 friendly win in Bucharest in 1972, and would could throw France's hopes of keeping Bosnia at a safe distance up in the air.