Laurent Blanc may have pulled les Bleus out of the state of disarray they found themselves in during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but ‘Le President’ does not necessarily have the luxury of the tools his predecessors had to work with. Star man Franck Ribery is out injured, former captain Patrice Evra is suspended in disgrace, while the new breed such as Karim Benzema and Yoann Gourcuff are being rightly questioned over their club form.
Wednesday’s encounter may only be a friendly, bit it means a great deal to France, who are wrestling to regain their image of a footballing superpower but also looking towards the future.
Taking the field against the English will be a pack of inexperienced figures aged 25 or under. Nasri falls into the youthful bracket, still only 23, but proudly boasts a significant knowledge of the international game, having turned out on 18 occasions for his nation.
Blanc, therefore, is likely to hand the Arsenal man the creative reins of the national side, fittingly in the city the offensive midfielder has made his adopted home.
The talents of the Marseille-born star are well established; he is a clever player on the ball, capable of producing a deft pass or a cute piece of skill to create a goal. France will need such intelligence if they are to rise above the mundane level they have been found flailing at all too often in recent years.
Five Famous England - France Clashes
France 2-1 England - Euro '04 - 13/6/04
England 0-2 France - Friendly - 10/2/99
England 3-1 France - World Cup - 16/6/82
England 2-0 France - World Cup - 20/7/66
France 0-15 England - Friendly - 1/11/1906
Supposedly a troublemaker during the Euro 2008 campaign, where he purportedly had a heated falling out with senior players William Gallas and Thierry Henry, Nasri now has a rather different face in the French media. “Messiah is an exaggeration, but I prefer this image to that of the little jerk,” he smiled during an interview with L’Equipe last week.
The fickle French media may have changed their assessment of the Arsenal No.8 due to his increasing stature in the Premier League, where he has persistently impressed for Arsene Wenger’s men (at least when fit), but he has yet to justify his “messiah” tag while wearing the Maillot Bleu.
|Head to Head|
|Age: 30||Age: 23|
|Club: Liverpool||Club: Arsenal|
|Caps: 88||Caps: 18|
|Intl. Goals: 19||Intl. Goals: 2|
Leading the line on his own under the gaze of the erstwhile Twin Towers, ‘Nico’, who was then a Gunner, shot les Bleus to a historic 2-0 victory and had a third goal ruled out. Such was the maturity and excellence of the 19-year-old, Didier Deschamps was moved to proclaim after the match: “We have found our Ronaldo.”
Anelka has since endured an undistinguished international career, which ended acrimoniously in the summer with the forward “dying of laughter” as the FFF slapped him with an 18-match ban after he had announced his retirement from the international game following an argument with former coach Raymond Domenech.
Should Nasri reach his potential in London, he would do well not to follow the lead of the enigmatic forward if his goal is to become a national hero.