Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 5th 2013 Contents A54
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, September 5, 2013
LONDON---Things have changed so dramatically
for France over the past decade that a scoreless draw
against Belgium last month in a friendly was praised
as a good result for the former world champions.
Ahead of its World Cup qualifiers against Georgia
and Belarus, the French team is second in Group I,
one point behind Spain after losing 1-0 at home to
football s new leading country in March. With only
a few hopes of gaining direct qualification for the
tournament in Brazil, defeat is not an option.
While France will be hoping for its strikers to end
a miserable run of four matches without a goal---
Karim Benzema has not scored for Les Bleus in more
than a year---England has limited attacking options
in Group H ahead of its double-header against Moldova
and Ukraine in Group H after Wayne Rooney pulled
out of the squad with a head injury.
In-form Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge missed
training with a thigh injury earlier this week and is
in doubt for the match against Moldova at Wembley
Stadium on Friday. England is second in Group H,
two points behind Montenegro with a game in hand
and with four matches left.
England then travels to Kiev to play third-place
Ukraine on September 10.
France was a dominant force in world football at
the turn of the century, even surpassing Brazil at the
top of the FIFA rankings. Spurred by the likes of Zine-
dine Zidane and Thierry Henry, it won the 1998 World
Cup and the European Championship two years later.
But the country has only managed to reach one
quarterfinal in its past three tournaments---losing to
Spain at that stage of Euro 2012 under former coach
Laurent Blanc. Since the 2010 World Cup debacle,
where the team crashed out miserably and the players
went on strike at training, the team has improved but
is only 23rd in the rankings, sandwiched between
Peru and Ghana.
Franck Ribery, who rose to prominence during the
2006 World Cup where France ended runner-up, said
his teammates would play with a different mindset
if they become a formidable team again.
Ribery, one of the team s most experienced players,
enjoyed a tremendous season with Bayern and was
been voted UEFA player of the year.
Benzema has not scored for the national team since
his two goals against Estonia in a friendly before last
year s European Championship. Deschamps said the
Real Madrid forward could play in a different role in
Tbilisi, alongside Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud.
Chelsea pair Fernando Torres and Juan Mata have
been left out of Spain s qualifier against Finland, with
coach Vicente Del Bosque explaining he had only
picked the players "in the best form."
Spain will be missing injured midfielders Sergio
Busquets and Xabi Alonso but Del Bosque does not
seem too worried ahead of the trip to Helsinki.
Rooney is facing three weeks out after cutting his
forehead during a training-ground collision with team-
mate Phil Jones at Manchester United. Jones and right
back Glen Johnson are unavailable, too.
"Moldova also lost in the last minute to a very for-
tunate goal against Montenegro, otherwise they d
have an even better points tally than five," England
coach Roy Hodgson said. "I don t think I need to
caution the players or guard against complacency and
I don t think I ve seen any signs of that in the games
we ve played. If I did think any complacency was
creeping in I d be very quick to move in and quash
it."In Group C, Germany midfielder Bastian Schwe-
insteiger won t play against Austria and the Faeroe
Islands after injuring his right ankle. Germany leads
its qualifying group with five wins and one draw from
six games, five points clear of Austria, Sweden and
Austria hasn t won in Germany in 14 matches since
1931 and was beaten by its neighbours 2-1 a year ago
France, England under
pressure in World Cup
Austria will miss suspended midfielder Julian Baum-
gartlinger while striker Marc Janko is doubtful with
a muscle injury.
Italy plays second-place Bulgaria tomorrow and the
Czech Republic four days later. In Group D, the Nether-
lands face Estonia and then Andorra. The Dutch team
has won all six qualifiers so far and can seal a place
at next year s tournament if it wins both matches.
heads the ball
during a Spanish
La Liga soccer
Granada at the
to put on his
scoring boots if
France is to
qualify for the
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