New France captain Florent Malouda is urging his less experienced team-mates to come out fighting against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday as Les Bleus look to kick-start their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign following a shock opening-day defeat by Belarus.
The hosts were left reeling in Paris on Friday after Sergei Kislyak's late strike secured a stunning win for the visitors and condemned Laurent Blanc to an unexpected loss in his first competitive game in charge. With nine games remaining in Group D, France still have time to recover but find themselves under pressure ahead of the trip to Sarajevo.
Malouda knows defeat against a side that beat Luxembourg 3-0 on Friday would leave his team with a mountain to climb. "We have to get a result," the Chelsea FC midfielder stressed. "This team needs a good performance and a result that can become a reference.
We know it'll be very hard but maybe we should follow the example of Belarus, who came here looking for a point and then gradually started to play with more freedom."
At 30, the left winger is one of the most experienced heads in Blanc's new-look squad and seems to be enjoying the extra responsibility. "I've been speaking to the young players a lot," said Malouda, who won his 58th cap on Friday. "But even if I didn't have the armband I'd still feel a duty to help the youngsters by being more vocal. I've tried to get everyone going again [after the Belarus defeat] and I've explained to them that we can't afford to feel downhearted after just one game."
The France squad has an average age of just 25, although that figure may rise when the likes of Franck Ribéry and Patrice Evra return after bans. Malouda, though, is refusing to use the long list of absentees as an excuse. "Getting those guys back might change something, but don't forget we also lost games at the World Cup with them playing," he explained. "I was playing, too. There isn't a messiah. The reality is that we're losing matches and we have to bring this run to an end."
Despite the result, certain new faces impressed at the Stade de France. Stade Rennais FC midfielder Yann M'Vila, 20, turned in a particularly assured display, while Mathieu Valbuena provided spark after coming on in the first half. The Olympique de Marseille playmaker hopes to get France scoring again on Tuesday.
"We created chances and tried a lot of things against Belarus," the 25-year-old told UEFA.com. "Unfortunately their goalkeeper made a lot of saves.
We're all a bit down about the situation, but we have another big game coming up so we have no choice but to pick ourselves up."
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