Oslo: France need to rediscover the fun-factor and get back to playing fan-pleasing soccer to make a quick recovery from their dismal World Cup campaign in South Africa, midfielder Lassana Diarra has said.
Les Bleus flew to Oslo on Tuesday with a largely experimental squad to face Norway in a friendly a day later, their first match under the guidance of new coach Laurent Blanc and their first outing since a shameful exit in South Africa.
“The first thing we need to recapture is the pleasure of being together,” Diarra, who was ruled out of the World Cup by illness and is one of the favourites to be named team captain later on Tuesday, 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, where internal squabbling and scandals marred a dismal run from the 1998 world champions, who boycotted a training session after striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting then coach Raymond Domenech.
Blanc, who replaced Domenech last month following France’s group stage exit, has not picked a single member of the World Cup squad for the Norway match.
“We have to show that we learn fast,” Blanc told reporters. “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 for Euro 2012 qualifiers 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 wining 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.”