Saturday 25 November 2017

French coach Laurent Blanc tells defence to tighten before England game

Laurent Blanc. Photo: Reuters
Laurent Blanc. Photo: Reuters

FRANCE coach Laurent Blanc gave his defenders a Euro 2012 wake-up call despite seeing his side ease to a 4-0 victory over Estonia in their final warm-up game last night.

Karim Benzema scored twice and Franck Ribery and Jeremy Menez were also on target as Les Bleus extended their unbeaten streak with a commanding performance in Le Mans.

There were moments of concern for the hosts, however, with Estonia enjoying several chances to open the scoring in the first period.

Blanc insists those early scares were all self-inflicted, and called on his back four of Mathieu Debuchy, Adil Rami, Philippe Mexes and Patrice Evra to raise their game.

"I'm not going to beat around the bush. Our defence was not good enough," Blanc told reporters.

"It was an easy game, very easy... I said to them, 'This is not your day - the team is dominating out there and yet we're getting ourselves in trouble'.

"You have to understand that it wasn't the opposition that was causing us problems. We have to have a long hard think about what happened out there.

"The most important thing, whether you're playing up front, in midfield or in defence, is to play simple.

"We didn't do that in the first half and we found ourselves in trouble.

"They need to improve, and I'm talking about all four defenders."

France were due to fly out to Ukraine today before opening their European Championship campaign against England on Monday.

France's run of form since Blanc took over at the start of the qualification campaign for Poland and Ukraine has many tipping them as dark horses for the title.

But Bayern Munich midfielder Ribery - who has scored in his last three internationals - is refusing to look any further than his side's Group D programme, which also includes matches against Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.

"We all want to go as far as possible in the Euros, but the aim is to get past the group stage," he said.

"We mustn't rush into this game against England. We've still got a few days. First and foremost, we want to get to Ukraine and settle into our hotel, start training and preparing."

Asked about his productive partnership with Real Madrid striker Benzema, Ribery added: "It's very good with Karim. We can find each other with our eyes closed. What's more, we get along really well away from football in our everyday life.

"When we play like that, it's great. It's just carrying on from my form with my club this season.

"I would have liked my relationship with the France team to have always been this good.

"For me to score three goals in three games is just incredible."

Last night's triumph followed a 2-0 win over Serbia and a 3-2 victory over Iceland in France's first two warm-up games, and Benzema added: "It's important to win, but also to play well.

"We're looking good after three very good matches. We're ready for the Euros."

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