By Robin Bairner | French Football Expert
France continued to live up to their billing as potential dark horses for Euro 2012 as they defeated Serbia on Thursday evening, running out comfortable 2-0 winners at the Stade Auguste-Delaune.
There was little of the drama of Sunday’s match against Iceland, with Laurent Blanc’s side starting in electric fashion, going 2-0 up with barely half an hour played. For the remainder of the first period they threatened to add to their tally, but after the break they seemed to ease off, with Hugo Lloris called into infrequent action.
After Franck Ribery broke his international scoring drought against Iceland, he was on target again in Reims, pouncing on a loose ball to rattle les Bleus into an early lead. Florent Malouda then smashed home a spectacular second to effectively tie up the match in the early stages.
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Save the opening two encounters of Laurent Blanc’s reign – one of which was an encounter away in Iceland in which none of the World Cup 2010 team were involved due to suspension – les Bleus have not tasted defeat under their mentor.
Although their qualifying group for the European Championship was deemed to have been easy, the list of friendly matches that France have played has been extremely demanding, yet the likes of England, Brazil and Germany have all been defeated since the former Girondins de Bordeaux man took over.
Aside from Fifa ranking points, these encounters are essentially training exercises, but Blanc’s policy of keeping a solid core of players at the heart of his side has proven to be wise.
Undefeated runs breed confidence, the kind of which saw France able to turnaround Sunday’s match against Iceland, an achievement that would have been almost unthinkable under previous boss Raymond Domenech, who sucked the belief out of the squad and caused fractures due to the resultant strain.
France may not yet have the kind of togetherness or even talent that was evident when they won the 1998 World Cup, but ahead of Euro 2012 they at least look to have veered sharply away from the shambles in which Domenech left them.
The scars of South Africa 2010 are reminders that the time when Les Bleus ruled the world is long ago, yet optimism for the short-term should be taken from recent results. Performances have not always been of the highest standard, of course, but in the cauldron atmosphere of knockout football, all that matters is progression.
Firmly in the habit of winning matches, France approach the tournament in Poland and Ukraine in good stead, and their first-half performance against a useful Serbia side will only increase hopes for a lengthy run in the competition.
Given the state Les Bleus were in when Blanc took charge, that in itself is a remarkable achievement, and suggests that the coach’s aim of winning at least one match should be attained as a minimum.
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