France welcome Scotland to Paris tonight for their decisive Group B UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier hoping to build on their 0-0 draw against Italy on Saturday.
France head the section with 19 points from eight games, one more than Scotland who come into the match with confidence buoyed by an excellent 3-1 win against Lithuania on Saturday. The French know they face a tough challenge, having been defeated 1-0 by Scotland in Glasgow last October despite dominating the game. "We'll need to be even more patient than against Italy," France midfielder Claude Makelele said. "And we'll have to take more risks offensively without compromising our solidity at the back."
Raymond Domenech's side expect a similar game to the one they experienced at Hampden Park, and Chelsea FC player Makelele concedes it could get "annoying" for Les Bleus. "They are a team that closes you down all the time, runs for the whole 90 minutes and does not let you develop your game," he added. "It won't be the same football we played in Italy. We have to expect an even tougher game in which we'll need to be aggressive and combative early on."
France are without the suspended Thierry Henry and doubts still remain as to who will replace him. Olympique Lyonnais striker Karim Benzema, Ligue 1's leading scorer, is the favourite but both Sidney Govou and Samir Nasri give Domenech plenty of options. David Trezeguet, who boasts more experience than any of those three, is also a possibility but has fallen down the pecking order.
Arsenal FC defender William Gallas has resumed training after a groin injury, but Domenech may decide not to take any risks with him after his understudy, Sevilla FC centre-back Julien Escudé, put in such a convincing display against Italy at San Siro. Lassana Diarra was France's best player in Milan but he could make way for either François Clerc or Bacary Sagna should Domenech opt for a more attacking right-back.
With the Rugby Union World Cup currently occupying the Stade de France, Les Bleus' usual home, France will play at the Parc des Princes for the first time since 1997. "We need our supporters behind us," Makélélé said. "It would be good to be able to count on them as an extra man, because this is a key game we have to win to qualify."
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