Pitch concerns for France in Lithuania

PARIS - France coach Raymond Domenech fears the poor quality of the Kaunas pitch could hamper his team's bid to revive their World Cup qualifying hopes when they play Lithuania on Saturday.

Following a sluggish start with defeat in Austria, France are third in Group Seven with four points from three matches, five points behind leaders Serbia and second-placed Lithuania, although they have a game in hand.

"The pitch could complicate things," Domenech told reporters this week. "The conditions are far from ideal. We would have preferred better weather conditions but it is mostly the condition of the pitch that is worrying."

In view of a recent cold snap, FIFA will inspect the pitch on Friday and decide if it is fit to be played on.

France, who made an embarrassing first round exit at Euro 2008, can expect a perfect playing surface next Wednesday at home against Lithuania, but they will first have to beat the Baltic side on Saturday.

Domenech must make do without Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka, who has been ruled out with a toe injury, but defender Patrice Evra is confident Les Bleus have what it takes to make the most of their back-to-back games against Lithuania.


"We have to win these matches. This qualification will be hard to get but mostly if we make it hard to get," the right back told reporters.

"We have fantastic players and we cannot waste what we have. But talent is not enough. With talent you win matches but if you want to win a World Cup, you need a team.

"For the moment, the talent is stronger than the team. We must turn this around."

The main problem for Lithuania's Portuguese coach Jose Couceiro is that key defender Marius Stankevicius will not be able to play in either qualifier after injuring his foot.

Apart from that, he has a full squad to choose from and is likely to take a defensive stance.

"The French have plenty of good players," Couceiro told news portal www.alfa.lt before leaving for a training camp in Germany last week.

"Everyone knows our teams are at different levels, but we also have some good players and we can still win. It's going to be tough, very tough, but if you start a game with a loss in mind, there is no point in starting it."

Probable teams:

Lithuania - 1-Zydrunas Karcemarskas; 3-Ignas Dedura, 6-Marius Zaliukas, 15-Arunas Klimavicius, 5-Andrius Skerla; 2-Deividas Semberas, 10-Mindaugas Kalonas, 16-Kestutis Ivaskevicius, 18-Deividas Cesnauskis, 8-Edgaras Cesnauskis; 9-Tomas Danilevicius

France - 16-Steve Mandanda; 13-Patrice Evra, 5-William Gallas, 4-Philippe Mexes, 2-Bacary Sagna; 21-Lassana Diarra, 17-Jeremy Toulalan, 8-Yoann Gourcuff, 7-Franck Ribery; 10-Karim Benzema, 12-Thierry Henry