France boss Blanc defends inclusion of Malouda in provisional squad

The Bleus boss believes that the 31-year-old, who has become nothing more than a squad player at Stamford Bridge this season, still has much to offer - on and off the field
France boss Laurent Blanc has defended his decision to include Florent Malouda in his provisional squad for Euro 2012, arguing that the Chelsea winger's international experience will be vital in Poland and Ukraine.

Malouda has been reduced to the role of a bit-part player at Stamford Bridge and is expected to leave the Blues this summer.

However, Blanc has named the 31-year-old wide man - who has 74 caps to his name - in the 12-strong panel of players currently plying their trade overseas that he is considering taking to the Euros.

"We can't have a national squad with only young players," the former Bordeaux coach told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

"With a young team, we have often had troubles and moments of fear. The tournament environment is like that.

"You need to have the experience from having played a lot of international games to perform well. Malouda has this profile, even if he's not very competitive in his club."

The inclusion of Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery was not in the least bit surprising, of course, but Blanc used his provisional squad announcement to beg the French media to be less critical of the winger, who has often been accused of failing to deliver for his country.

"People need to leave him alone," the Bleus boss claimed. "Even if it's difficult for you [the press].

"He needs to stop putting extra pressure on his shoulders. Because then he loses some of his simplicity, his efficiency and plays a different game.

"In Bayern Munich he's free, in an environment of confidence. We need to make him feel confident and not pressure him."

Turning his attention to another of his star names, Blanc confirmed that Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema will lead the French attack at the Euros.

"Benzema is an unquestionable starter for me," the former sweeper confessed. "He's now a very important player in Real Madrid, not just for his talent, but because he has improved collectively.

"He's complete. He even has discovered that he's good with his head. He's more mature, but his talent is still the same."

Blanc added that Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny and Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye are also pushing for a starting berth.

"Koscielny is having an excellent season," he enthused. "He's probably the player who has improved the most in the last eight months.

"I thought Cabaye was very interesting when he was playing in Lille; now he's confirming it abroad. He has a greater dimension to his game than when he was with Lille.

"Technically, he's very good. He's very smart and understands the game very well."

France have been drawn in the same group as England, Ukraine and Sweden at Euro 2012.