France coach Laurent Blanc said on Monday that he expected a tough battle against Bosnia in Tuesday’s already crucial Euro 2012 qualifier here.
Blanc – whose side lost 1-0 to 78th ranked Belarus on Friday in Paris – said that the Bosnians drew strength from their traumatic war experiences in the 1990’s and great pride in their footballing exploits which saw them go within a play-off of reaching the World Cup finals this year.
“We travelled across the city, and we saw certain things (war damaged buildings, numerous cemeteries) but we knew all about that before we came here,” said the 42-year-old World Cup and Euro winning defender.
“We are in for a difficult match, it is a nation that suffered and it wants to exist through its football, it is a means and a feeling that can motivate a national side to pull off a good performance against us.”
Blanc, who replaced the disgraced Raymond Domenech after the World Cup finals where France exited in the first round, said that the French would have to defend a lot better than they had been doing against a potent Bosnian attack.
Bosnia warmed-up for the clash with an opening Euro qualifier 3-0 away win over minnows Luxembourg on Friday.
“Bosnia are a side that likes to play possession football,” said Blanc, who has also had to do without several key players who were suspended to varying amounts of matches for their roles in the players strike at the World Cup.
“We have to defend really well, something we have been having trouble in doing. If Bosnia have more of the ball, we have to defend well and to hit them on the counter attack.”
Blanc, who tried to revive the squad’s morale last week by bringing in icon Zinedine Zidane and instructed them all to learn the national anthem the ‘Marseillaise’, said that the return of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema after he missed the Belarus match with an ankle injury was a boost.
“He (Benzema) brings his individual qualities, his ability to score goals,” said Blanc, who lost three of his other strikers to injury following the Belarus defeat.
“He is our leading scorer in the squad, with eight goals in 28 appearances.
“One can safely say that scoring a lot of goals is not that easy at international level.”
Blanc, who also lost his opening game, a friendly against Norway, said that they had to come back with something from the match.
“It is vital that we bring something back from Bosnia.
“We never said that we wouldn’t win in Bosnia, but we must be honest based on the evidence so far: and we had difficulties against Belarus.”
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