Blanc stays upbeat despite injury deluge

PARIS - France coach Laurent Blanc has sounded remarkably calm for a man who has lost possibly six players from his squad for Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier at home to Albania, where anything other than a win could knock Les Bleus down to second in Group D.

The 1984 and 2000 winners lead Bosnia by a point but with their rivals hosting Luxembourg on Friday before coming to Paris on Tuesday for a potential automatic qualification shoot-out in the last group game, Blanc could have done without injuries.

Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, arguably France's best two attackers, were called up last week but injuries sustained while with their clubs have ruled them out of both matches alongside midfielder Blaise Matuidi and defender Bacary Sagna.

Striker Kevin Gameiro also looks set to sit out the Albania game with a knee problem while Eric Abidal has a knock, not to mention the likes of Philippe Mexes and Yoann Gourcuff who never made the squad because of long-standing injuries.

Blanc, though, is not looking for excuses despite Benzema's absence meaning he may consider his changing system and playing two up front.

"The preparation for the match will be the same. I don't see why I would have any more worries," the coach told reporters.

"They will be two very different matches but with the same objective; to take the points and win both games. Albania are less strong than Bosnia but I'll wait to see who I can pick."

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France won 2-1 in Albania last month but the comfort of being on familiar turf at the Stade de France is tempered slightly by the fact their only defeat this campaign was at home to the unheralded Belarus, 1-0 in their group opener last year.

The injury crisis has been eased somewhat by late call-ups for striker Djibril Cisse and uncapped Valencia defender Jeremy Mathieu but predicting Blanc's team for Friday will be difficult for Albania's Bosnian boss Dzemal Mustedanagic.

He will be trying his utmost to do his homeland a favour but even if France win as they should, Bosnia can still take it to the wire with victory over Luxembourg, setting up a mouthwatering clash next Tuesday.

Failure is unthinkable for France, who have steadily improved under Blanc following the ignominy of being eliminated at the 2010 World Cup group stage under Raymond Domenech amid the mutiny scandal and Nicolas Anelka's banishment.

The loss and draw with Belarus, the 0-0 draw in Romania last time out and the racism allegations which briefly engulfed Blanc in May are the only blots on his record but any slip-up over the next week, irrespective of injuries, would leave him exposed.

With France great Zinedine Zidane saying this week that he would not rule out one day coaching the national side, Blanc has been warned.


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