France face a dilemma ahead of a game they can afford to lose when they take on eliminated Sweden in their final Euro 2012 Group D match on Tuesday. They may have to decide whether they want to top the group and avoid a potential quarter-final against world champions Spain or would prefer to finish second and stay in the comfort and familiarity of their Donetsk base.
Coach Laurent Blanc may also ponder resting his three players who have been booked in the tournament. But he was adamant Les Bleus will try to win the game, even though a one-goal defeat could still see them through.
“It is always difficult to play against Sweden and we will prepare to win it,” he said.
The balance, however, is difficult to find. France train at the excellent facilities used by Shakhtar Donetsk and it has been proving beneficial. “It is the ideal structure. We never experienced this before. Everything is available on site and it helps us gain a lot of time,” said Francois Darras, one of three France physiotherapists.
If France finish top of the group they would need to travel to Kiev from Donetsk early on the day before the quarter-final, losing precious recuperation time.
Top of group
France, who snatched their first win in a major championship since 2006 when they beat co-hosts Ukraine 2-0 in their last match, would head the standings if they beat Sweden and England defeated Ukraine without making up an inferior goal difference.
They have four points like England, with Ukraine in third place on three and Sweden on none. A draw in both games would put France and England through with Les Bleus top on goal difference.
With the scenarios favouring France, Blanc could be tempted to rest players or spare those who have been booked.
Centre back Philippe Mexes, right back Mathieu Debuchy and winger Jeremy Menez will miss out on a potential quarterfinal appearance if they pick up another yellow card on Tuesday. Mexes is unlikely to be left out because Blanc will not want to break up his solid partnership with Adil Rami.
Defender Anthony Reveillere could come in for Debuchy and Menez could be rested with Florent Malouda or Mathieu Valbuena taking his place. Yann Mvila is fit after suffering an ankle sprain.