(AFP) Monday 11 November 2013
France coach Didier Deschamps says he is instilling a combat mentality in his players ahead of their FIFA World Cup™ play-off against Ukraine.
France play their first leg in Kiev on Friday before hosting the Ukrainians at the Stade de France on Tuesday next week.
And even four days out from the first leg, Deschamps insists his players are already primed for action.
"It’s played on the pitch but it’s the head that manages the legs," the former Juventus and Monaco coach said.
"We’re in a state of mind of ‘challenge’, of ‘combat’.
"There’s no room for doubt, for uncertainty, for questioning."
France reached the play-offs by finishing second to Spain in their group while Ukraine were edged out of top spot in their pool by England.
Ukraine were edged out by a single goal against Greece.
According to Deschamps it is aggression that will make the difference in such a sudden-death, knock-out stage.
"The players are competitors and we feed off that," he said.
"We can’t be nervous or worried. The top level is about aggressiveness and commitment."
By Ian Holyman, France Correspondent
Bacary Sagna has backed Samir Nasri to make an impact for France with the Manchester City midfielder now back in favour with Les Bleus.
Nasri, 26, spent the entirety of last season off the international scene following his controversial Euro 2012.
However, after making a good impression during substitute appearances in World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Belarus last month — scoring in a 4-2 victory in the latter encounter — he is expected to be in the starting line-up to face Australia in Friday’s friendly in Paris to make what would be his first start for his country in more than a year.
And Sagna, 30, has told the media that his former Arsenal teammate — banned for three internationals by the French Football Federation after insulting a journalist during Euro 2012 — has now changed his ways.
"He’s come back with a positive attitude. He wants to repay the faith the national team coach has shown in him," he said. "The past is forgotten. Samir is a great player. He wants to do well, he has the ability to do well, and I know he’s going to do well."
The Arsenal right-back’s comments echo those of France coach Didier Deschamps, who ignored Nasri during the first year of his tenure.
Having called up the ex-Marseille player for the end-of-season tour of South America — which Nasri was forced to miss through injury — before ending his international exile in August’s friendly in Belgium, Deschamps acknowledged he has also seen a change.
"He’s put in two really positive performances off the bench,” he said. “He has desire, he has hunger. He’s been playing at a level at which he should always play. But he has to keep his game simple."