Posted on Jun 19
A furious French coach Laurent Blanc said that his players would have to produce something out of the ordinary if they are to beat defending champions Spain in Saturday's Euro 2012 quarter-final.
The 46-year-old - who took over from Raymond Domenech after the 2010 World Cup finals debacle - had at least guided the French to a place in the knockout stages of a major finals for the first time in six years but only just.
Any mood of celebration was tempered by the manner in which France had got there as they were outclassed in a 2-0 defeat by Sweden, who were already out of contention for a place in the last eight.
It brought to an end the 23-match unbeaten run and also was Sweden's first over their opponents in nearly 43 years, dating back 11 matches to October 1969.
With England beating co-hosts Ukraine 1-0 in the other game it saw the English top the group and set up a meeting with Italy on Sunday.
Blanc, who had made two changes to the side that beat Ukraine 2-0 in the previous game, said there had been only one side who turned up fired up for the game and hinted strongly that changes would be made for the Spain game.
"Sweden played this match with its heart. Physically, they were better prepared and they had a player in the team who made the difference, which makes a hell of a difference.
"We are really disappointed by this result but we were in trouble throughout the match. When you lose a match, it is because you have not got the right team out there.
"Therefore, if I were to start it all over, we would not start with the same team."
Where those changes will come was hard to ascertain as he held to account almost every sector of the team.
"I don't think the attack was the area where we really suffered the most," he said.
"We really struggled in defence and midfield where the Swedes were really strong."
Blanc, a member of the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winning sides though he missed the World Cup final because he was suspended, said he had to maintain an upbeat tone ahead of the clash with Spain.
"One always has to be optimistic. Of course we are disappointed but the main thing is that we qualified.
"Even if the Swedes produced a superb performance, it is they who are going home. Therefore we must remain optimistic.
"We haven't made our task any easier because Spain is a massive team and we will have one day's rest less than they do (they played on Monday).
"We have to pull off something very special to beat Spain and after such a match as this one tonight it is hard to imagine that happening. But we are going to battle to do so."
Blanc, whose contract runs out at the end of the tournament and has yet to be renewed, said the fact that they wouldn't start favourites would be of some help.
"That gives us some room for optimism but one has to be realistic, we are going to play one of the best teams at this tournament and in the world.
"We had a target, to win and to finish top of the group. We weren't capable of doing so, so we have to deal with it. It is imperative we produce an extraordianry performance if we are to continue in the tournament."
Blanc also conceded that as striker Olivier Giroud had revealed that the atmosphere in the dressing room afterwards had not been a happy one.
"We will have to restore some calmness to the situation.
"There is always palpable tension when you lose a match. We didn't expect this type of match and there is great disappointment, that is part of life in the dressingroom."