Adil Rami believes France have delivered the perfect response to their critics by embarking on a 15-match unbeaten run and qualifying for UEFA EURO 2012 as Group D winners.
Les Bleus were struggling when Laurent Blanc took charge following a poor FIFA World Cup, and their disappointing form continued when Belarus triumphed at the Stade de France in the opening encounter of the current campaign. A subsequent 2-0 win in Bosnia and Herzegovina got a rejuvenated French side back on track and the recovery was completed on Tuesday with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against the same opposition in Paris.
The hosts were nevertheless made to sweat as Edin Džeko gave the visitors a deserved half-time lead before Samir Nasri's late penalty restored parity, although Rami was keen to look at the bigger picture. "This qualification feels really good," the Valencia CF defender told UEFA.com. "When we started this journey together 15 months ago a lot of people doubted us. Today, we have answered those doubts."
While Safet Sušić's team must now prepare for a play-off next month, Blanc can look forward to fine-tuning his team ahead of next summer's tournament. "Now we want to remain invincible for as long as possible," Rami added. "Going 15 matches without defeat is great for confidence. We need to use this statistic to help us grow."
France's new-found resilience was severely tested, the visitors coming within 12 minutes of sealing a memorable win and automatic qualification. Indeed, the pressure was on Nasri's shoulders when the Manchester City FC midfielder stepped up to take the penalty after he himself had been fouled, yet he explained that he retained his focus by thinking back to advice he once received from Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger.
"I took a deep breath and I thought about something Arsène Wenger told me last year," the former Arsenal playmaker explained. "He told me I should still take a penalty and make sure justice prevails even when I'm the player that has been fouled. I thought about his words and it worked. It's a big goal. There comes a time when you have to take responsibility. I wasn't afraid."
The result was hard on a Bosnia and Herzegovina side that totally dominated the first half. Goalkeeper Asmir Begović could not hide his disappointment, saying: "It's very difficult to swallow, especially having played so well. We played excellently in the first half and should have been more than one goal up. Maybe that cost us in the end. But looking to the future we can take the positives in to the play-offs with us."
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