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France look to get high on team spirit

sports Updated: May 22, 2010 23:11 IST

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The France players, whose popularity has reached a depressing low after a string of dismal displays, gathered in the French Alps this week in search of a team spirit that might help them win back their fans' hearts.

There is little to suggest the former world and European champions, who have been booed by their own supporters in recent outings, can make an impact at the World Cup.

However, since arriving in the scenic resort of Tignes on Tuesday, the players have all been saying that they could feel the group uniting and believed France's true potential would show at the June 11-July 11 finals in South Africa.

“We practically have the best players in the world at every position,” left-back Patrice Evra told reporters at this ski village surrounded by rugged snow-capped peaks.

“That does not make us the best team in the world, not yet anyway, and we have work to do to become that but we're going to the World Cup to win,” he added.

Jeers rang from the Stade de France stands after France controversially qualified through a playoff at the expense of Ireland in November, and then again when they were outclassed 2-0 by European champions Spain in a March friendly.

Right-back Bacary Sagna said he could understand the fans' frustration but felt they still stood behind the team.

“We were rubbish against Ireland and Spain, that's true,” he said. “We have weaknesses, we realise that, but we also have strengths. I understand the supporters and I don't believe they don't love us any more. We want to win for ourselves but also for them.”

Coach Raymond Domenech, who was surprisingly left in charge after his side's embarrassing early exit from Euro 2008, is even less popular than his players but, according to Sagna, that is not a problem.

“The answer must come from us, the players,” he said. “The coach and the staff are there to help but it's up to us to work hard to go all the way.”

The mood in the France camp at Euro 2008, with a reported rift between the youngsters and the more experienced players in the squad, was named as one of the reasons for the side's failure to get out of their group.

According to reserve goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso, however, that has changed, and the squad are united.

“We're starting that great adventure with a real team spirit,” he said. “I'm really surprised because I can feel people are trying to get to know each other and looking for a rich relationship.”

France have failed to thrill their fans ever since their Euro 2008 flop, looking short of ideas and stamina, a pale shadow of the side who once inspired awe to the rest of the world.