Blanc calls for stronger defence

France coach happy with win over Estonia but says more work needed on defensive deficiencies ahead of Euro 2012 opener.

Blanc praised Karim Benzema, centre, and Franck Ribery, right, for their goals against Estonia, saying both had ‘enormous talent’  [Reuters]
Blanc praised Karim Benzema, centre, and Franck Ribery, right, for their goals against Estonia, saying both had ‘enormous talent’ [Reuters]

France extended their unbeaten streak to 21 in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Estonia in Le Mans but coach Laurent Blanc was concerned by defensive weaknesses which he says must be rectified ahead of their Euro 2012 opener with England next Monday.

The 46-year-old – who has restored a lot of the prestige lost after the debacle on and off the pitch at the 2010 World Cup under predecessor Raymond Domenech – said he was pleased by the manner in which Karim Benzema, who scored a brace, Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri combined in attack.

Benzema’s double, one from a very much in-form Ribery – who has scored in all three warm-up matches – and a late goal by Jeremy Menez gave Blanc’s side their third win their three warm-up games.

However, Blanc, a masterful central defender and integral member of the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 title winning squads, said he wanted the defence to tighten up.

Defensive worries

“On the positive side we wanted to win this third game and also we wanted to see more consistency in our style of play, both of which we achieved,” said Blanc, who earned his coaching spurs at Bordeaux guiding them to the 2009 title in only his second season in charge.

“There were areas which were less impressive and that was in defence.

“Paradoxically it was an easy match, very easy to play.

“What annoys me, though, is that we created our own problems. You have to do things simply, that is the manner in which we will be more effective. We did not play in this simple fashion in defence and that got us into difficulty.”

Blanc, whose contract comes to an end after the championship, said his message to the defence ahead of the England clash in Donetsk in Ukraine would be crystal clear.

“We are going to impress on them that they have to be much more rigorous and tougher in defence and it is imperative they don’t do anything too overly complicated.

“It is just not logical to get oneself into difficulty on one’s own.”

Attacking mentality

Look out England: France look in ominous form ahead of their Euro 2012 opener [Reuters]

Blanc, who played for among others Marseille, Inter Milan and Manchester United, positively purred with delight on the other hand over how the offensive part of his team were performing.

“The attack part of our strategy is progressing and it is vital that the defensive part rises to the occasion,” he said.

“They (Benzema, Ribery and Nasri) are enjoying playing together, they have intrinsically different qualities but they offer these qualities to the team, all the better for us.

“They were effective and put the opponents under constant threat. On the bench we also have potent offensive weapons. But in an official match (i.e. Euro), we will only have recourse to three substitutions and we will maybe not have the opportunity to deploy all our offensive options.

“Therefore it is imperative that we are more attentive in our defensive play.”

Blanc, who won the English Premier League title with Manchester United and a Cup Winners Cup with Barcelona, took special pleasure out of the form of Ribery, who has in recent years been criticised for reserving his best form for his club Bayern Munich.

“We maintained our confidence in him and God knows that you all weren’t behind me on that one, two years ago.

“Ribery and Benzema have enormous talent which they display for their clubs, but it was crucial that they also show this form for their national team.”

Source: AFP

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