The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
France coach Didier Deschamps hints he may pair Benzema with Giroud in attack against Georgia
PARIS - France coach Didier Deschamps is tempted to pair Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud in attack to give his team more options against a Georgia team likely to pack the defence in their World Cup qualifier on Friday.
Deschamps has only played them together once before during his first seven games in charge, but thinks reverting to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation could be the right approach to break down a resilient Georgia side which held out for 86 minutes before losing 1-0 to reigning world and European champion Spain.
"They've already played together before, and even if everything wasn't perfect they showed some interesting things. It's an option we can use from the start or during the game," Deschamps said Thursday. "It's logical to think we will get on the ball and have more time in the opponent's half against a Georgia team defending in numbers. We will need to have a lot of presence in attack, whether it's from orchestrated attacks or crosses."
Giroud's excellent heading ability gives France an extra option and playing him through the middle would free the more skilful Benzema to play in a roaming role.
Although France's players insist they only have Georgia on their minds, it is proving difficult not to think ahead to the critical match against Spain four days later.
Level on points with Spain at the top of Group I, France can take a big step toward automatic qualification for next year's tournament by winning both home matches.
"We're determined to represent France at the next World Cup. That also means beating Georgia, because this match affects the next one," France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said. "To be honest, I don't really know all the Georgia players. They did very well against Spain and I'm sure they will tomorrow against us. We know what style of play to expect."
Normally a team fighting for first place can count on strong backing from its home fans. But the notoriously hard to please Stade de France crowd are quick to get on the players' backs, leading to them tensing up.
"We will need the crowd against Spain and against Georgia," Giroud said. "We'll have to create chances (because) Georgia will come here to defend. We shouldn't expect to score four or five goals."
Friday's match pits low-scoring France — which has scored only eight goals in seven games under Deschamps — against a resilient Georgia team which frustrated Spain.
"I've watched their last five or six matches, I know them enough to give my players the most amount of information possible," Deschamps said. "They hit the post before Spain scored and then had a chance to equalize in injury time."
Georgia is in mid-table with four points but has played one game more than Spain and France. Coach Temuri Ketsbaia, who made his name as an attacking midfielder for Newcastle from 1997 to 2000, has limited options in attack — his three strikers have four international goals between them.
Vladimir Dvalishvili (Legia Warsaw) and Nikoloz Gelashvili (Vfl Bochum) hardly play for their club sides, so Ketsbaia may pick Mate Vatsadze, who scored in a friendly win against Albania last month and has shown good recent form with Danish club Aarhus.
Deschamps has been boosted by the return to full training of wingers Franck Ribery and Jeremy Menez.
But midfielders Yohan Cabaye, Maxime Gonalons and Blaise Matuidi and centre back Laurent Koscielny will be suspended if they are booked against Georgia, leaving Deschamps with a difficult decision to make over whether or not he should leave out some of his first-choice players.
Deschamps could give Real Madrid teenager Raphael Varane his first cap alongside Mamadou Sakho and keep Koscielny fresh for the Spain match on Tuesday, while 20-year-old Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba is also pushing for his first start.
"Surprises or no surprises what interests me is having a competitive team," Deschamps said.
Meanwhile, the playing surface has been re-laid after being chopped up during last Saturday's rain-soaked Six Nations rugby match between France and Scotland.
(1 of 50 articles for this week)06/17/2013 9:43 PM 0