France coach Didier Deschamps will hope his players have packed their shooting boots as they head to Minsk for Tuesday's FIFA World Cup qualifier against Belarus.
Les Bleus remain second in Group I, three points behind Spain, despite an unprecedented sequence of five games without a goal. Since beating Georgia 3-1 in March, Deschamps's side have lost 1-0 to both Spain and Uruguay, been defeated 3-0 by Brazil and recorded successive goalless draws against Belgium and – on Friday in Tbilisi – Georgia. It is their worst run in front of goal in the 109-year, 769-match history of the France team.
Deschamps, however, is not giving in to panic. "I'm not worried," said the 44-year-old, capped 103 times as a defensive midfielder. "We have another game now and the aim remains to take points. We all have room to improve, but failing to score is never something you can be certain of avoiding when you face opponents whose plan is to keep it tight."
Belarus may adopt a similar safety-first approach when they welcome France, since they sit bottom of Group I and went down 3-1 to Deschamps's charges at the Stade de France last September. However, Franck Ribéry knows his side can ill afford to draw another blank. "We have no other choice than to take them seriously," the winger said. "We know we have only a very slender chance of going through as group winners, so we must make sure we are among the best second-placed sides. That's why we have to win this game."
November's play-offs now seem to offer France's most plausible route to next summer's final tournament. "This team has to go to Brazil, whatever the route," added Ribéry. "The play-offs are OK by me as long as we get through." Deschamps, meanwhile, is not too disappointed with where France stand, despite recent results. "Initially our target was a top-two place," he explained. "At one point we were ahead of Spain. We’re not any more, but we remain on course."
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