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France's iron curtain ready for test

india Updated: Jun 27, 2006 20:15 IST
Reuters
Reuters
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France, feared by many for their lethal strikers, have been relying mostly on a watertight defence so far in the World Cup.

Tuesday's second round clash in Hanover will be a test for France's flat back four, facing a challenge from the likes of David Villa, Fernando Torres and Raul.

"The power of the opposing strikers should not really be a problem if the four of us keep concentrating on our job and approaching it collectively," said right back Willy Sagnol.

France's compact back row had been their main strength throughout their triumphant 1998 World Cup campaign.

Young substitutes then, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet have matured to become two of the world's top strikers.

At this World Cup, however, Henry, despite scoring two of France's three goals so far, has not looked the player he is for Arsenal while Trezeguet has squandered many chances.

Like eight years ago, France's trump card appears to be their back four, who have conceded just one goal from their first three matches.

They can also still count on goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, a talisman since the 1998 adventure.

EXPERIENCED QUARTET

The four at the back can be sure to get all the help they need from defensive midfielders Claude Makelele and Patrick Vieira, arguably the best two players in the squad since the start of the tournament.

"A strong defence is a basis, something you can build on and it's also reassuring for the entire team," said coach Raymond Domenech.

France's quartet have plenty of experience, having won a title each in four different leagues this season -- Sagnol with Bayern Munich, William Gallas with Chelsea, Lilian Thuram with Juventus and left back Eric Abidal with Olympique Lyon.

There was a question mark over how Thuram and Gallas, who had never been paired together in
central defence, would get on.

Gallas, previously made to play at left back against his will, has been faultless so far while Thuram has been his usual, reliable self.

"It's working well and it's getting better with the two getting used to playing together in those positions," Sagnol said.

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