Let’s think back to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals. It was a time when French international football had seemingly reached an impasse. The world looked on in consternation as the French national team ignominiously imploded before their very eyes on the biggest possible stage.
Although an under-performance was widely expected, no one anticipated the debacle that erupted. After placing last in their group without a single win and given all that had happened in full view of worldwide onlookers, it was difficult to see a way back for the 2006 World Cup runners-up.
Then, a certain Bordeaux manager, Laurent Blanc, was appointed to replace the much maligned Raymond Domenech. And so, after the trouble-makers and instigators of the French debacle were punished, a new era began under Blanc’s tutelage. He knew the immense task at hand and he was willing to take it on. But, how was he going to inspire and motivate a team, a country, that was at its lowest ebb? Unfortunately, his first Euro Qualifier versus Belarus didn’t provide the type of answer everyone was looking for. Nevertheless, Blanc took it in stride, knowing that time was needed before his country could fall back in love with the beautiful game. Or, was he already in way over his head?
Laurent Blanc is a very respectable, talented manager who doesn’t tolerate insubordination and his insistence that the World Cup squad’s rebels be suspended gives proof of that. There were certain philosophies that he instilled into the minds and hearts of his Bordeaux players, especially that of discipline and attacking football and he was determined to imbue both philosophies into the French national team. As was previously said though, time was needed before positive results could have been seen. Seeing that he was blessed with a wonderful depth of talent, though, his job was made a bit easier.
As the next Qualifier drew nearer, Blanc picked his bunch and continued to instill his methods into his new-look team. The result? He was rewarded with a 2-0 win against Bosnia. France were given a reason to believe again. The next Qualifier brought about a hard-fought, eleventh-hour victory versus Romania. France dominated that game and showed genuine, attacking endeavor- something that was non-existent in South Africa and something that would have surely pleased Blanc, the country’s faithful and the players, who were under a substantial amount of pressure to restore the sullied reputation of their country.
Several players who didn’t make the World Cup squad were proving their worth in the process. The likes of Yann M’Vila, Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema, Loic Remy and Dimitri Payet all impressed, giving Blanc a firm reason to believe that this new French era will prove to be one of success.
Luxembourg awaits and given two consecutive, morale-boosting victories, one would now expect that game to be a “sure win” for a level-headed Blanc and his revamped squad. A new team, a new manager, and a new mentality is just what the doctor ordered for France. The team looks hungry, enthusiastic and alive, once again. Laurent Blanc has already started to prove that he is the right man to help his country put its World Cup farce in the rear-view mirror and I fully expect him to lift his country back up amongst the world’s heavy-weights.
Indeed, with Laurent Blanc, the only way is up for France.
You can see the full schedule of Euro 2012 Qualifying matches here.