Diarra: New-look France need old-style harmony

OSLO - New France coach Laurent Blanc kept his plans a mystery on the eve of his first game in charge but said he wanted Les Bleus to play good football.

Blanc landed in Oslo with a largely experimental squad ahead of Wednesday's friendly against Norway and refused to drop any hints about his starting line-up or who he will name as captain for France's first outing since their shambolic World Cup exit.

None of the players who boycotted a training session in South Africa after Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting then coach Raymond Domenech were selected. The team were knocked out of the finals after the group stage.

"I'd like to see my team play good football, or at least try to play good football and manage to do it as much as possible," Blanc, who took over from Domenech after the World Cup, told a news conference.

One of the favourites to wear the captain's armband, midfielder Lassana Diarra, said France needed to rediscover the fun-factor and get back to playing fan-pleasing soccer.

"The first thing we need to recapture is the pleasure of being together," Diarra, who was ruled out of the World Cup by illness, told reporters.

"It is also a duty to bring pleasure to those who love this team."


That pleasure was nowhere to be seen in June, when internal squabbling and scandals marred a dismal run from the former world champions.

Blanc realises he has little time to experiment with the European championship qualifiers against Belarus and Bosnia coming up next month.

"We have to show that we learn fast," Blanc said. "I didn't have the time I would have needed but that is no excuse. We need a result."

Some of the players who took part in the World Cup revolt could be back against Belarus and Bosnia next month.

Those who will play against Norway, however, know they have a great opportunity to convince Blanc to keep them in the squad.

Of the 22 players called up by the new coach, 13 are without a cap. Others, like Karim Benzema, were overlooked for the World Cup and have a lot to prove.

"There's a new coach, new players, a new spirit," the Real Madrid forward told reporters. "You can say that for me, it's a new start."

Blanc's first squad appears to be built around the 2004 European Under-17 title-winning team, a generation featuring Benzema, Samir Nasri, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jeremy Menez, who despite their talent have failed to live up to expectations.

"We must all show what we are capable of," 23-year-old forward Menez said. "A new adventure is starting and there are great things to be done. Our turn has come."

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