Domenech cautious ahead of Serbia showdown

BELGRADE - France coach Raymond Domenech was in cautious mood before his team's World Cup Group Seven qualifier against Serbia on Wednesday.

Serbia have 18 points from seven matches, four more than France, and a win in front of 55,000 passionate fans in Red Star's Marakana stadium would seal their berth in next year's finals in South Africa.

It would be the first time Serbia has reached a major tournament as an independent nation and Domenech, under fire for a patchy World Cup qualifying campaign, seemed none too confident the 2006 finalists could stop them.

"I would be satisfied with a good match, we have quality players who can give a lot but I can't promise a result against Serbia," he told a news conference on Tuesday.

"We have to put the setback of being held to a 1-1 draw by Romania on Saturday behind us and move on.

"We decided not to have practice this evening because it's our second match in five days and the players need to recuperate in order to perform up to their abilities on Wednesday.

"All players need to perform at a certain level for the team to get a result, because we have seen that World Cup qualifying is an unforgiving competition."

Striker Thierry Henry, who on Monday denied media reports that he had criticised Domenech at France's training camp last week, was more optimistic.

"If we carry on playing like we did against Romania, the win will come and we will do our best to overpower a good Serbian team in what will be an electrifying atmosphere.

"We wanted three points against Romania but only got one, so we came here to get a win that would throw the race for the automatic qualifying berth wide open.

"We played well on Saturday and there were plenty of positives in how we passed the ball and moved around on the pitch, but at the end of the day we were disappointed."

Europe's nine group winners qualify automatically and the eight best second-placed teams will enter two-leg playoffs for another four berths.