France coach Laurent Blanc faces a number of selection issues ahead of his team's trip to face Romania on Tuesday, but he insists his side "have improved recently" after Friday's 2-1 victory in Albania.
Three points clear at the UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group D summit, Blanc's men have now gone 12 games unbeaten after losing the first two outings of his reign, and they were given a winning platform in Tirana by Karim Benzema's opener and a first international goal for Yann M'Vila inside the first 18 minutes.
The former FC Girondins de Bordeaux coach is wary of complacency, however, remembering only too well the anguish of missing out on the 1994 FIFA World Cup after France lost their final two qualifiers despite needing a single point to progress. "I'm satisfied with what we've produced, but we have one target, which is to be through, and that's not the case yet," he said.
A particular area of concern for Blanc is his back four, which has been broken up since Philippe Mexès suffered a serious knee injury towards the end of last season. The AC Milan stopper had started to form a valuable partnership with Adil Rami, but Blanc has had to experiment of late and was also denied Rami's services in Tirana through suspension. "The good news ahead of the Romania game is that we have him back," explained Blanc. "Our defence is something that has changed a lot in recent games and that's not good."
France fans would also like to see a little more stability in midfield, where alterations could be made following a quiet performance from Samir Nasri in a playmaking capacity. Fielded on the right against Albania, meanwhile, Florent Malouda would prefer a role on the left in Blanc's lineup, but current incumbent Franck Ribéry is unlikely to be shifted from his position. "Players have always made claims like that and they always will, but
I have the feeling that we've improved recently in terms of creating more chances."
One player who could come into the first XI against Romania – who lie fourth in the section, two points behind Bosnia and Herzegovina – is Marvin Martin. Blanc has compared the FC Sochaux-Montbéliard midfielder to Spain duo Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, "except they don't play at the same level, in the same league or in the same competitions". The 23-year-old could find himself adding to his four caps after contesting the final eight minutes against Albania.
Benzema will undoubtedly lead the attack again after being involved in both goals on Friday. The Real Madrid CF striker looks to be in excellent shape after spending time at a health resort over the summer and has removed one selection question mark from Blanc's mind. He can now look forward to collecting his 40th cap as the top scorer in the current squad with 13 goals – a tally he will no doubt be keen to add to as France vie to take another big step closer to Poland and Ukraine.
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