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Penitent Ribéry seeks France's forgiveness

Published: Thursday 24 March 2011, 8.27CET
Franck Ribéry aims to rekindle his "special relationship" with the French public after ending a period of international exile, with the winger saying: "It is a great pleasure to be back."
by Christian Châtelet
from Paris
Penitent Ribéry seeks France's forgiveness
Franck Ribéry is set to return to international action against Luxembourg ©AFP
 
Published: Thursday 24 March 2011, 8.27CET

Penitent Ribéry seeks France's forgiveness

Franck Ribéry aims to rekindle his "special relationship" with the French public after ending a period of international exile, with the winger saying: "It is a great pleasure to be back."

Franck Ribéry is looking forward to a fresh start under coach Laurent Blanc as the France winger bids to end a period of international exile when Les Bleus visit Luxembourg for Friday's UEFA EURO 2012 Group D qualifier.

It gives me great pleasure to be back now. I have big ambitions and the motivation to make up for lost time.
Franck Ribéry

Ribéry was banned for three internationals by the French Football Federation (FFF) for his part in the disharmony during France's ill-fated FIFA World Cup campaign in South Africa, before missing subsequent call-ups through injury. However, his excellent form for FC Bayern München – including four Bundesliga goals and nine assists – meant the penitent former Olympique de Marseille man could no longer be overlooked.

"I disappointed and shocked some people and I want to apologise for that," Ribéry said. "It gives me great pleasure to be back now. I have big ambitions and the motivation to make up for lost time."

The 27-year-old still has work to do to win over the French public who will expect to cruise to victory at the Josy Barthel Stadium. France have enjoyed overwhelming dominance in this fixture: winning all 12 competitive matches against Luxembourg, including the last four without conceding.

"I was lucky to be appreciated by the French people and losing this special relationship has been very upsetting. It is something I want to renew," said Ribéry, who will earn his 50th cap if he features against both Luxembourg on Friday and Croatia in a Paris friendly four days later. "Even though my behaviour may have suggested the opposite, the national team is close to my heart and I want to play for my country and help build up team spirit."

France top Group D with three victories from four qualifiers, including a 2-0 home success over the Grand Duchy in October. Blanc is glad to have Ribéry back but warns against an overreliance on the schemer. "He is a player who can make a difference," said the ex-FC Girondins de Bordeaux coach. "We will look to get him involved a lot but we must not put him under any more pressure by making him think he has to win the game on his own."

Last updated: 25/03/11 17.10CET

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