France in desperate need of a win, or even a goal

France go into their crucial World Cup qualifier against Belarus on Tuesday in desperate need of a win. But first things first, what Les Bleus require more than anythign is just a goal after failing to hit the net in five matches.

France in desperate need of a win, or even a goal
France striker Andre Piere Gignac holds his head after another scoring opportunity is wasted. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

France go into their key World Cup qualifier in Belarus on Tuesday again embroiled in crisis as a goal drought and lack of victories has left their dreams of Brazil in 2014 hanging delicately in the balance.

Didier Deschamps captained the side to their solitary global crown in 1998 but after a bright start to their Group I campaign, the wheels have come off in spectacular fashion and Deschamps' haul of four victories in 11 matches at the helm is the worst on record.

They go into the tie with another unwanted French record hanging over their heads after having failed to score in their last five matches, with Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema being the chosen culprit by the media as to why the team are likely to have to negotiate the play-offs in order to reach South America.

It seems far-fetched to believe world champions Spain will relinquish their three-point lead at the top of the pool with home matches against Belarus and Georgia to come in October, while Finland are only five points back in third and travel to Paris in the final round of qualifiers.

To make matters worse, UEFA player of the year Franck Ribery picked up a knock during the dismal 0-0 draw in Georgia on Friday and the Bayern Munich winger is now a doubt to make the starting line-up.

"I am not here for me and I am not here either to not obtain results," Deschamps said from the team's pre-match base in Tbilisi.

"I am not in the game to obtain records and I am not going to say that this pleases me or makes me proud but it doesn't stop me from sleeping at night," he continued in reference to possibly presiding over the first French team since 1925 to fail to score in over 500 minutes.

Benzema has enjoyed success at club level and is now first-choice at the Santiago Bernabeu but 15 goals in 60 matches for France leaves his credibility hanging by a thread internationally.

His partnership with Arsenal's in-form Olivier Giroud failed to click into gear against Georgia and there were questions posed over why Deschamps chose to use an untested 4-2-3-1 formation which failed to provide creativity in attack.

"I will make choices for the good of the team. I still have some solutions but do not have a miracle cure.

"I have not decided who will play in Belarus but I will make choices for the good of the team. We are lacking in efficiency. We need to improve this aspect."

Should France fail to overtake Spain and be forced down the play-off route, they could come up against the likes of Croatia, Russia, Sweden or even England with a chance they may lose their seeded status after slipping down the world rankings to 23.

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France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

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