Two years ago, France started their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying bid with a shock 1-0 home loss to Belarus. After getting their FIFA World Cup campaign under way with victory on Friday, Les Bleus now have the chance to avenge that defeat and make it two wins from two on the road to Brazil.
Abou Diaby's goal earned France an encouraging 1-0 victory in Finland to kick off their Group I challenge but it was a different story at the start of EURO qualifying on 3 September 2010. Substitute Sergei Kislyak finished off a counterattack to condemn then national coach Laurent Blanc to defeat in his first competitive outing.
Although a 23-game unbeaten run followed, including a 1-1 draw in the return match in Minsk, Les Bleus could not progress past the quarter-finals in Poland and Ukraine. Those two contests are the only times the countries have met, so although Belarus hold a fledgling unbeaten run against France, Blanc's successor, Didier Deschamps, feels it may be a different story this time around.
"Belarus lost 1-0 in Georgia [on Friday] and we won our first game," Deschamps said. "It's a much better situation to be in before taking them on. We'll prepare for this game the best we can and go out to thwart them this time." Rio Mavuba, who received plaudits alongside fellow midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Diaby for their performances in Helsinki, added: "We know how this kind of team plays. We'll do our best to score early to force them to be more adventurous.
We expect them to try to keep it tight, but we'll rely on the flair of our attackers to break them down."
Despite saying he would use the advice and experience of his predecessor, former team-mate and friend to build his France team, Deschamps chose a noticeably different lineup in his first competitive game to Blanc's two years ago. In Finland, there were only two starters who also begun that infamous game against Belarus in Paris – Hugo Lloris and Diaby – while Mamadou Sakho formed a new partnership at centre-back with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Six points would be the ideal start for France, but they are aware of the challenge their section holds, as LOSC Lille captain Mavuba pointed out. "We know that we are in the same group as Spain and therefore have to take the points against all the other teams if we want to challenge them. Against Belarus, there are no excuses, it should be three points."
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