Football: France's Blanc eager to take on injury-hit Germany

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  • Tuesday, February 28, 2012
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  • BREMEN, February 28, 2012 (AFP) - Germany host France in a pre-Euro 2012 friendly on Wednesday with the Germans missing several first-choice stars and French coach Laurent Blanc relishing playing one of Europe's top teams.
    "It is necessary in sport to play the best in order to progress. This is what is most exciting," Blanc told AFP.
    "What's the risk? Everyone expects us to take a beating.
    "That is just extra motivation for us."
    Germany play France in Bremen and the French have the better record of the 23 matches between the neighbours with ten wins to the hosts' seven and the German's last win over France was back in 1987.
    Yet Germany coach Joachim Loew has forged his young team into one of the most feared sides on the continent and the Germans have convincingly beaten Brazil, Argentina, Holland and England in the last two years.
    They breezed through their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with ten consecutive wins, while world and European champions Spain were the only other team to go through the qualifiers unbeaten.
    Loew has repeatedly played down expectations from the German public amidst hopes of a fourth European title and after his team hammered Holland 3-0 in their last appearance the previous November, the coach is relaxed.
    "The result (against France) will neither spur us on or rob us of self-confidence," said the 52-year-old.
    "The development of the team over the last few years, since 2010 in particular, makes me relaxed."
    However, the Germans have been weakened by injuries to stars Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker and Mario Goetze, while captain Philipp Lahm also withdrew on Sunday with a knee infection.
    In their absence, rising starlets Marco Reus and Andre Schuerrle, of Moenchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, are expected to have their chance to shine.
    Loew can also rely on Real Madrid midfielders Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil.
    In Lahm's absence, Lazio striker Miroslav Klose is expected to captain the Germans and the 33-year-old is just five goals short of the all-time record set by Gerd Mueller in 1970s.
    Blanc is missing Madrid's Karim Benzema and Olympique de Marseille's Loic Remy with injury, but has called up Marseille midfielder Morgan Amalfitano and Tottenham Hotspur's veteran striker Louis Saha.
    France won their Euro 2012 qualifying group by just a point, but winger Franck Ribery served a timely reminder of his form with a stunning display and scored both Bayern Munich's goals in Sunday's 2-0 win over Schalke.
    The 28-year-old is set to spearhead the French attack at the Weserstadion and Germany midfielder Lars Bender says the hosts know better than to allow him any space to exploit.
    "We all know about Franck Ribery and we know he can decide games by himself," said Bender.
    "He's one of their best players and we will have to be very careful with him if he gives one of his best performances."
    Germany have been drawn against Denmark, Portugal and the Netherlands, while France are in Group D with England, the Ukraine and Sweden.


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