Gaël Clichy believes France took an important step towards strengthening their rapport with their supporters during Saturday's 2-0 victory against Romania, describing the atmosphere at the Stade de France as "magnificent".
Les Bleus had not won in Saint-Denis for a year and were beaten by Belarus there in their opening UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier last month. They recovered by sealing a fine 2-0 win in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and repeated that scoreline against Razvan Lucescu's charges thanks to late goals from Loïc Rémy and Yoann Gourcuff.
While Clichy was pleased to have helped France get the win they needed to go top of Group D, the Arsenal FC left-back was also delighted with the capacity crowd, who stayed behind the team throughout a tight encounter. "It was tense because for as long as it stayed goalless there was always the chance of losing to a free-kick or an individual mistake," Clichy told UEFA.com. "But the fans kept encouraging us and we turned in a strong performance. It was a beautiful evening for France."
The celebrations at the final whistle may not compare to those witnessed in the same stadium 12 years ago, when the hosts clinched the FIFA World Cup, but Clichy insists Laurent Blanc's evolving side are on the right track. "We're young and we're a new generation," said the 25-year-old. "We messed up our first test against Belarus, but we've managed to get a win tonight. The fans just want to see us play good football and get three points, and we want them to get behind us. They were behind us from start to finish tonight and it was magnificent."
The hosts needed those supporters during a difficult spell in the second half when it looked like Romania might emulate Belarus. Indeed, had Cristian Săpunaru scored, and not hit the post, on 71 minutes, the outcome might have been different.
Mathieu Valbuena admitted to being concerned. "We knew it would be tricky," the Olympique de Marseille winger said. "We created a huge number of chances but we hit the woodwork and their keeper made some great saves. The trouble is they had one or two chances as well and we knew until we scored we would be vulnerable."
Valbuena enjoyed another lively performance on the right flank, although Blanc's decision to replace him with his club-mate Rémy proved decisive when the forward opened the scoring on 83 minutes. Two more substitutes, Dimitri Payet and Gourcuff, combined for the second goal in added time, and Valbuena was quick to praise Blanc's intervention. "That was a great piece of coaching," he said. "He keeps on telling us that everyone in the squad has a role and everyone needs to be ready. The freshness of those players made the difference tonight."
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