France in need of points and appreciation

PARIS - France take on Romania in a World Cup qualifier on Saturday in precious need of both points and the love of their fans, something that has been sadly lacking since the side flopped at Euro 2008.

The former world and European champions have failed to please their demanding supporters for some time and have been regularly booed since their early exit from last year's tournament in Austria and Switzerland.

"We need the fans behind us and we want them to love us," said midfielder Alou Diarra, aware that another hostile atmosphere at Stade de France was likely.

"Being booed by your own fans is painful," he told reporters. "They should be a bit more patient."

France lie second in Group 7, five points behind Serbia, and need maximum points against Romania and away to the group leaders four days later to reduce the risk of having to win a playoff against another runner-up to reach next year's finals.

Coach Raymond Domenech, who is even less popular than his players and knows his job is on the line, said he could not understand the fans' attitude.

"I can understand them booing after a bad game but doing it during the match is something I find difficult to understand," Domenech told French daily Metro.


The best way for France, who have plenty of talent in their squad, to win back their fans would be to treat them with a great performance against Romania.

However, they will have to try to do that without midfielder and captain Patrick Vieira, who has been struggling with form for over a year and is not in the squad.

There is a also question mark over the fitness of Franck Ribery, but the energetic midfielder is so important to the side that he should be on the pitch.

Domenech, whose cautious tactics are one the reasons why many fans dislike him, will probably continue with his conservative approach and opt for just one man up front.

That spot could go to Toulouse striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, who scored France's only goal in an unimpressive 1-0 win in the Faroe Islands last month, rather than Karim Benzema.

Hugo Lloris should be in goal despite receiving a knock in training and Julien Escude was likely to team up with in-form William Gallas in central defence.

Romania, second from bottom in the group, can take encouragement from the fact they were 2-0 up against France in Constanta last October before having to settle for a 2-2 draw.

However, they will be without arguably their best player, forward Adrian Mutu, who is absent due to a thigh injury.

"As a coach, I've always been looking forward to victory, coach Razvan Lucescu told Romanian sports daily ProSport.

"I cannot afford to think differently now. I do believe that we can get a victory in France. Our opponents have weaknesses and we must take advantage of that."

Probable teams:

France - Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Julien Escude, Patrice Evra; Jeremy Toulalan, Lassana Diarra; Franck Ribery, Yoann Gourcuff, Thierry Henry; Andre-Pierre Gignac.