Former France midfield stalwart Emmanuel Petit is confident Les Bleus are set for a bright future under the stewardship of Laurent Blanc.
Blanc has guided France to the top of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group D ahead of the resumption of their campaign in Albania on Friday. It marks a welcome upturn in fortunes following disappointing campaigns at UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which were in stark contrast to the success Petit enjoyed as an international player. For the ex-AS Monaco FC, Arsenal FC and FC Barcelona man, though, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"Why was Laurent chosen? He represents the world champions," said Petit. "It’s been 13 years since we won the World Cup, and there's not a day I am not reminded of the world and European titles. It's always on people's minds, all the time. That is why he was chosen, and also because he is a young coach.
"Laurent represents the hopes of many football lovers," he added. "
I am happy Laurent is in charge of the French team. I think Laurent is the man for the situation, because he has the right values and intelligence, so we must give him some time. I think it would be premature to see a win at the EURO next year as an objective. In 2012 I think it's premature, but who knows, we might cause a surprise, because since Laurent Blanc took over we've seen that when we play against teams like Brazil and England, the French team is there."
Petit's praise for Blanc is to be expected considering the glorious years they enjoyed as international team-mates. Both were World Cup winners on home soil in 1998 – though Blanc missed the final through suspension – and members of the squad which triumphed at the UEFA European Football Championship two years later.
"Italy scored the first goal, and the closer we got to the end, we thought things were over," Petit recalls of the 2000 final in Rotterdam. "In my head I was thinking, 'OK, to lose in the final is not a disgrace, we were world champions two years ago, finalists at the EURO'. But the three players who came on during the game [goalscorers Sylvain Wiltord and David Trezeguet, and Robert Pirès] turned it around. That's the beauty of sport, it brings such emotions, it's instantaneous, there is no second take. It's not like in the movies, it's raw, you get it right in your face, it's wonderful!"
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