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France seek reassurance against USA
After squeezing into Euro 2012 with a nervy 1-1 draw against Bosnia-Herzegovina in their last game, Laurent Blanc expects a more assured performance from France in Friday's friendly with the United States.
France were heading for the play-offs until a 78th-minute penalty by Samir Nasri against the Bosnians last month secured top spot in Group D and with it a berth at next year's tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
Les Bleus tackle the US at Stade de France on Friday before meeting neighbours Belgium at the same venue on Tuesday and Blanc says he wants to see his side playing without the fear that shackled them against Bosnia.
"You can get nice surprises in matches with nothing at stake," he said.
"I'm not expecting to see the fragility we showed against Bosnia when we play the United States and Belgium. We have to put everything into these matches.
"For those who start and who have no experience or no caps, they have to put their foot on the gas and not ask themselves questions.
"It's not the last chance, but it's a good chance. When you're given a chance to express yourself, it's best to take it."
Blanc has confirmed that he will experiment against Jurgen Klinsmann's side, with Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud hoping to win his first cap.
"We're leaning towards two different team selections," said the France coach.
"If we have to give game time to new players, it'll be against the United States, and if they play well, they'll continue against Belgium."
France must do without Nasri this time, after the Manchester City midfielder was ruled out on Tuesday evening with an inflamed tendon in his left knee.
Uncapped Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons was called up in place of Nasri, but there are also doubts about the participation of midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Florent Malouda (both thigh), as well as Marseille striker Loic Remy (groin).
The US, meanwhile, have been deprived of the services of their star forward Landon Donovan, after he elected to remain in California to prepare for his club Los Angeles Galaxy's MLS Cup final showdown with Houston on November 20.
"The plan was to have Landon come in for the match against France and then return to the LA Galaxy in preparation for MLS Cup, but after further discussion, Landon expressed his desire to stay in Los Angeles," Klinsmann said.
"While my preference was to have Landon with us for this important match, I respect his decision."
Klinsmann has overseen five matches since replacing Bob Bradley as coach in July but has seen his side register just one victory -- against Honduras last month -- and score only two goals.
The former Germany great is rebuilding the team with a view to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and says the challenge of facing France will allow him to gauge the progress that his new charges have made since he took over.
"For us, it's really very exciting to play against such a good team," said Klinsmann, whose side face Slovenia in another friendly on Tuesday.
"We're in the process of restructuring the national team by introducing lots of young players. We're in a bit of a transitional period and taking on France is a marvellous opportunity for us to learn.
"But we're also very ambitious. We're not coming just to learn, but also to be competitive.
"We've come a long way in the United States in the last 25 years and people now expect us to compete against the top 15 teams in the world, like France."
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