independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Les Bleus boosted by more humble approach

Karim Benzema (left), Samir Nasri and Jeremy Menez could lead France to glory

WHEN you forgive you in no way change the past but you sure do change the future," said popular US radio host Bernard Meltzer, who spent the best part of 30 years solving problems across the States until his death in 1998.

The French nation have learned to forgive the football team for their despicable behaviour in recent major tournaments and it seems to be leading to a bright future for Les Bleus.

In fairness, things could not get much worse with beleaguered boss Raymond Domenech unable to stamp his authority on a squad who were in chaos.

In 2008 there was a bust-up between Samir Nasri and senior players after the then-youngster decided to sit in Thierry Henry's seat on the team coach, while the South Africa shambles two years ago saw the players go on strike amid reports of racial undertones to fights within the dressing-room.

France were home before the postcards on both occasions and for them to have even qualified for Euro 2012 in first place ahead of Bosnia and Romania is testament to the outstanding work achieved by new boss Laurent Blanc both on and off the training ground.

To have come so far since the World Cup is barely believable considering that tournament saw them take just one point from a group including Uruguay, Mexico and South Africa quite apart from all the shenanigans which were happening off the field.

However, Blanc immediately axed every member of the World Cup squad for his first game in charge and showed who was boss.

Les Bleus lost 2-1 in Norway and then were defeated 1-0 by Belarus in their opening qualifier but results were nowhere near as important as getting a grip on a team running out of control.

France have not lost since and have beaten Brazil and won away to England and Germany in glamour friendlies to show Blanc's changes are working just fine.

Some of the old guard have been reintroduced, players such as Patrice Evra, but they no longer call the shots.

Blanc trusts a younger, more humble group and from that we have seen the likes of Adil Rami, Yann M'Vila, Nasri, Yohan Cabaye and Karim Benzema growing in confidence with every positive result and performance.

It could be argued that maybe this is a tournament or even two tournaments too soon for Blanc's work to really be appreciated – and by then the boss is expected to be long gone – with the European Championship in 2016 on home soil an obvious target.

Add four years to their current ages and the cornerstones of the team will be in absolute peak condition when Hugo Lloris will be 29, Nasri 28, M'Vila 25, Benzema 28 and Rami 29 but even so the majority of this side are based with big clubs across the continent.

Only M'Vila and Cabaye of the probable starting 11 were not in the Champions League this season and those two central midfielders would cost a fortune should they leave Rennes and Newcastle respectively.

Cabaye probably best sums up this new France. He is level-headed, doesn't arrive with an ego like so many of the old guard and just goes about performing at a consistently high level.

Let's just hope Nasri sticks to his own seat on the bus.

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