With nothing at stake in their qualifying match against Austria, France will be hoping to build on their momentum ahead of next month’s World Cup playoffs.
Even if they lose to Austria on Wednesday at the Stade de France, France will finish second in Group 7 behind Serbia and will have to win a two-legged playoff in November to gain a spot at next year’s tournament in South Africa.
While France had only scored six goals in its nine previous matches, the 1998 world champions managed to find the net five times in the same match for the first time in two years against the Faroe Islands and are adamant they finally rediscovered their style of play.
“It’s obvious that we are more serene than six months ago,” France defender Eric Abidal said. “We are stronger. The 1-1 draw at Serbia in September, when we had to play 10 against 11, was a benchmark. Against the Faroe’s we were able to maintain that level and we have to keep going on that path against Austria to improve our confidence.”
France lost to Austria 3-1 last year in its opening World Cup qualifier. This loss put France into trouble and Les Bleus, following several disappointing draws, were never able to catch Serbia. The Serbians secured direct qualification for the World Cup with a 5-0 win over Romania last week and play at Lithuania on Wednesday.
“Serbia was not the best team in the group, but it was the most consistent team,” Abidal said.
France coach Raymond Domenech won’t seek revenge against Austria but is likely to field a strong team made of several regular starters to try to develop a game identity.
“We have to keep what we found against the Faeroes,” France winger Florent Malouda said. “On Saturday, efficiency was added to the quality of play.”
France will discover its playoff opponent at the Oct. 19 draw in Zurich.
Saturday’s 5-0 win also eased the pressure on Domenech, who has been under fire since last year’s European Championship, when France was ousted in the group stages without winning a game.
“To sack him (Domenech) now is not a solution,” former France player Zinedine Zidane said in an interview with RTL radio. “Nobody wanted to fire him when it was time to do it. Now we have to stick with them (the players), to stick with him. The most important thing is to qualify for the World Cup.”
David Trezeguet is also ready to put differences aside, as the Juventus striker said he will come out of international retirement to help his country if needed.
Trezeguet, who hasn’t played with France in more than a year in part because of his tense relationship with Domenech, said he feels he can add “something extra” to the team.
“I didn’t write off the France team,” Trezeguet was quoted as saying by L’Equipe. “I’m still available in this difficult period. To qualify, the coach should put all the weapons on his side. If Domenech thinks I can be useful, I am ready for the playoffs.”