Blanc looks for clean slate

New France coach raring to go in first match in charge after World Cup fiasco.

    Blanc instructs his makeshift squad before the friendly against Norway [AFP]

    After weeks of heated discussions after France's World Cup fiasco, new national team coach Laurent Blanc said it was time to switch back to football.

    Blanc, who took over from Raymond Domenech after France's shameful World Cup campaign, said he was delighted to be back on a football pitch.

    "We spent a lot of time in offices and meetings lately and needed to do that but I don't forget that the place I'm good at, if I'm good at anything, is on the pitch," Blanc, preparing for his first match in charge, a friendly against Norway on Wednesday in Oslo, said.

    "The players, the staff, all want to play that match on Wednesday, all want to train and to be back on a pitch."

    Wounded pride

    Blanc, needing to rebuild a team and heal a country's wounded pride, has fond memories of the Clairefontaine camp outside Paris, where he prepared as a player for France's World Cup triumph on home soil in 1998.

    "This morning, when I put on a tracksuit, a T-shirt of blue, white and red colours with a certain animal (the team's emblem, a rooster) on it, I felt that it was really starting at last," he said.

    "I had been looking forward to that moment so much. It felt really great."

    France reached a depressing low in South Africa, the players boycotting a training session in support of striker Nicolas Anelka, who had been sent home for insulting Domenech, before making a group-stage exit.

    In search of a fresh start and a new spirit, Blanc picked none of the World Cup squad members for the Norway match and will rely instead on a largely experimental group of players.

    "Some of them are discovering this place (the Clairefontaine base) and I told them it had to feel like home," Blanc said.

    "I told them they were here to prepare the best they could, to play football and, most of all, to enjoy themselves."

    Ribery withheld

    German champions Bayern Munich said on Monday that they would not release France forward Franck Ribery for a disciplinary hearing by the French Football Federation (FFF) to probe his alleged role in the team's World Cup revolt.

    Ribery is one of five France players summoned by the FFF.

    The hearing is scheduled for August 17, three days before the start of the new Bundesliga season.

    Anelka, Patrice Evra, Eric Abidal and Jeremy Toulalan have also been summoned.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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