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World Cup parallel heartens Abidal

Published: Tuesday 10 June 2008, 20.20CET
Defender Eric Abidal is looking to draw inspiration from France's FIFA World Cup campaign two years ago, as Les Bleus strive to build on their slow start in Group C.
by Matthew Spiro
from Chatel-Saint-Denis
World Cup parallel heartens Abidal
Eric Abidal at Tuesday's conference in Chatel-Saint-Denis ©Getty Images

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Published: Tuesday 10 June 2008, 20.20CET

World Cup parallel heartens Abidal

Defender Eric Abidal is looking to draw inspiration from France's FIFA World Cup campaign two years ago, as Les Bleus strive to build on their slow start in Group C.

Defender Eric Abidal is looking to draw inspiration from France's FIFA World Cup campaign two years ago, as Les Bleus strive to build on their slow start in Group C.

World Cup comparison
Despite beginning with an array of attacking talent that included Karim Benzema, Nicolas Anelka, Franck Ribéry and Florent Malouda, Raymond Domenech's team failed to create clear chances in Monday's goalless draw against a determined Romania side in Zurich. Abidal, however, is far from despondent, pointing to the identical start France made in Germany – where they went on to reach the final – as a source of optimism. "The scenario is similar to the World Cup," the FC Barcelona left-back said. "We wanted to start well against Switzerland but only drew 0-0. It was the same yesterday. Now we need to improve and create more chances."

Tough opponents
The comparison falls down slightly when the quality of France's future opponents is taken into account, with the Netherlands and Italy replacing their World Cup adversaries Korea Republic and Togo. But Abidal remains confident, saying: "It doesn't worry us. We've already played Italy several times recently and we know the Dutch well too. It's just a matter of playing to our strengths and getting the results we need."

More expansive
The Dutch turned in the performance of UEFA EURO 2008™ so far by defeating Italy 3-0, yet Abidal believes their more expansive style might make it easier for France's attackers to find space. "It's hard to know what the game will be like – every game is different. Romania played very deep, waited for us to come and made life very hard for us. The Dutch will probably play differently, but we just need to focus on our own qualities."

Abidal warning
France's tepid display left the players disappointed, yet while Abidal conceded they might need to be more adventurous to open their goal account, he insisted it would be wrong to change their approach entirely. "We need to go for it more, but in a clever way. It'd be a mistake to suddenly start committing men forward then get caught out. We've got to keep our solid defensive platform but also try to be more dangerous when we go forward."

Evra threat
It remains to be seen whether France will make changes for Friday's meeting with the Netherlands, but Abidal, who has been first-choice left-back since Domenech's appointment in 2004, is coming under increasing pressure from Manchester United FC's Patrice Evra. Asked whether he felt under threat, the 27-year-old was philosophical: "Evra has had a great season and it's good for the squad to have him. But I'll keep giving my best on the pitch and if the coach wants to make changes then he will."

Last updated: 10/06/08 18.47CET

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