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WORLD CUP

WORLD CUP

France await World Cup play-off fate

France will find out later on Monday which team will stand in the way of a place at the World Cup in Brazil next year. French coach Didier Deschamps said he hoped to avoid Portugal in the draw for the two legged play-off to be held in November.

France await World Cup play-off fate
Who will stand in the way of France's path to Brazil 2014? The World Cup play off draw takes place at 3pm Paris time on Monday. Photo: Vanderlei Almeida / AFP

UPDATE: France to face Ukraine in World Cup play offs. Click here for the results of the draw.

France manager Didier Deschamps, who captained France's 1998 World Cup-winning side, is praying the footballing gods smile on his team in Monday's eight-team European zone play-off draw.

Deschamps has publicly expressed his annoyance that France missed out on being seeded and as a result are in danger of being pitted against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal, Euro 2004 winners Greece, Croatia or Ukraine in the draw at FIFA'S Zurich headquarters.

Joining the French in the unseeded 'pot' are the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired Sweden, Romania and surprise packet Iceland.

Deschamps, asked which team he wanted to avoid, said: "It's legitimate to say Portugal because they have Cristiano Ronaldo, who's a great player and a big influence.

"But playing Greece, Croatia or Ukraine, they're more based round teamwork but not easier or simpler to play."

He was speaking after France's closing victory over Finland with his side already assured of the runners-up spot in Group I behind world champions Spain. 

Deschamps will be counting on his side sealing their Brazil berth in less controversial fashion than they did their ticket to South Africa.

France owed their appearance at what was to prove a disastrous 2010 World Cup to a play-off success over the Republic of Ireland, with a little help from Thierry Henry's hand.

Henry admitted to deliberately handling the ball to set up William Gallas's decisive goal to seal France's presence in South Africa, as shown in this video.

France's build up to the all important play-off match has been hit by controversy after left back Patrice Evra slammed French TV pundits, including French World Cup winner Bicente Lizarazu for being "parasites" and "tramps".

"There are some pundits with whom I will soon settle my differences with them… they want to sell a lie to the French people that Evra is disliked. But that is not the case at all.

"I do not know what Lizarazu has against me. Me I was twice voted best left-back in the world, four times the best left-back in the Premier League.

"Him I don't even know if he was ever voted best left-back in the world.

"I recall my first call-up to the national side, all the others shook my hand apart from him. Thierry Henry said to him 'Oh Liza, here is the opposition'. And Lizarazu looked at me and said 'Why? Someone told you that I was already retired?'

"People have a good impression of me, it won't be these tramps who dirty my image. They must stop lying to the French people," said the Senegal-born defender, who then classed them as parasites.

Evra has since been summoned  to explain his comments to the French FA.

SEE ALSO: French fans call their footballers "rude, stupid and overpaid." 

Portugal hoping to continue play-off success

Portugal meanwhile will be hoping to continue their success in play-offs having successfully navigated their way through the two-legged process to get to the last World Cup and Euro 2012s both at the expense of

Bosnia-Herzegovina, who made no mistake this time round qualifying by right.

Manager Paulo Bento will be relieved at the return of star striker Ronaldo, who missed out on his country's final 3-0 win over Luxembourg which sealed the runners-up spot in Group F behind Russia.

Like Portugal Sweden go into Monday's draw secure in the knowledge that talismanic leader Ibrahimovic is back after being suspended for last week's 5-3 loss to Germany.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward said after that game: "I am not worried. In the play-offs we will have two completely different games.

"I liked the way the team fought. If I had been on the pitch, it would have been the same result.

"Everything is possible," said Sweden coach Erik Hamren.

"There are some good teams in the pot, but we will do all we can to realise our dream of going to the World Cup."

Croatia go into Monday's lottery with a new man at the helm after running out of steam with defeats in their final two qualifiers.

Coach Igor Stimac paid the price after offering to stand down in the wake of last week's 2-0 loss to Scotland, which came four days after a 2-1 home defeat to Group winners Belgium.

He was replaced by Niko Kovac, who skippered the side at Euro 2004 and 2008 as well as at the 2006 World Cup.

"We had to something due to poor results and the ruining of the Croatian team's reputation," explained Davor Suker, president of the Croatian Football Federation.

Iceland, one of the revelations of the eurozone qualifiers, secured their place in their first-ever play-offs, with a closing 1-1 draw with Norway to finish as Group E runners-up behind Switzerland.

The two-legged ties which will take place on 15 and 19 November. Monday's draw is at 1300 GMT, 3pm Paris time.

Are France right to fear Portugal more than the other teams they could face?

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FOOTBALL

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.”

READ ALSO: France coach laments 'failure' as hosts knocked out of World Cup

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