CLAIREFONTAINE - After weeks of heated discussions following France's World Cup fiasco, new national team coach Laurent Blanc said on Monday 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, at the team's training base outside Paris.
"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, told reporters.
"The players, the staff, all want to play that match on Wednesday, all want to train and to be back on a pitch."
Blanc, needing to rebuild a team and heal a country's wounded pride, has fond memories of the Clairefontaine camp, 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."