Laurent Blanc led France into a new era without any of the squad from the World Cup debacle in Wednesday’s friendly with Norway. The former Bordeaux boss marked the beginning of his tenure by suspending the 23 players that disgraced the nation in South Africa, following Nicolas Anelka’s eviction from the camp after a bust-up with former coach Raymond Domenech, providing Les Bleus with the opportunity to move forward utilising young and hungry players.
Of the squad that was selected by Blanc, 15 were uncapped ahead of the Norway encounter, indicating that Blanc is looking to expand his selection pool for the national team. Despite the inexperience at international level within the squad, the quality remains. Arsene Wenger has been an admirer of PSG defender Mamadou Sahko for some time, as well as midfielder Blaise Matuidi. The pair possess extensive club experience despite their tender ages. Matuidi is competing for a place in midfield with Moussa Sissoko of Toulouse and Yann M’Vila- all of which are uncapped. In attack, Blanc has again freshened things up to include a host of exciting prospects. Jimmy Briand looked to add to his three caps whilst the much-coveted Loic Remy was also included.
Along with the new contingent, the squad has a blend of experience. Real Madrid frontman Karim Benzema earns a recall after being left out of the World Cup squad, and there are also inclusions for Lassana Diarra (who also missed out on the tournament through injury), Philippe Mexes and Arsenal winger Samir Nasri. The disciplinary stance taken by Blanc has not only reprimanded a group of players that plotted against the previous coach but it also provides him with the first opportunity to look at their replacements. Not only was player power a factor in Domenech’s demise but the squad was ageing. The domestic league in France has proven to be a good breeding ground for not future internationals, not only for France but for African nations also, and Blanc will be hoping that his group of players can convert encouraging club performances into accomplished displays for their country.
Whilst Loic Remy collected just his second cap last night, his club future remains unclear. The 23-year-old’s proposed move to Premier League side Stoke broke down over personal terms- resulting in him returning to his club OGC Nice- where he lead the attack in the goalless draw with Valenciennes on Saturday. Although the striker failed to secure the move, representatives from both Tottenham and Everton were reported to have watched the friendly with Norway to before deciding whether to approach Nice with an offer. White Hart Lane seems to be the striker’s preference. He said: “A move to Spurs would be interesting. Stoke is not the move that I want. Nice are in real need of money and they should be adaptable with the price to help sell me.”
Meanwhile, the opening weekend of Ligue 1 proved to be equally as unpredictable as seasons previous, with champions Marseille succumbing to a 2-1 defeat at home to minnows Caen. Boss Didier Deschamps pleaded for resources to improve the squad in the wake of the loss, yet he may have to be patient until Mamadou Niang’s proposed move to Fenerbahce is completed. He told L’Equippe: “I’m convinced this team needs strengthening. We should have been able to beat Caen. I don’t hold the purse strings. If we can’t do it, I’ll have to make do with what I’ve got, and I’ll try and get the most out of the squad.” Elsewhere there were defeats for RC Lens and Girondins de Bordeaux-who were beaten by Montpellier in their first competitive since Blanc departed for the national job.