Ribery: It's going to be hot
France's Franck Ribery is relishing coming head to head with his Bayern Munich team-mate Luca Toni in Tuesday's UEFA EURO 2008 Group C decider against Italy. Ribery and the Azzurri striker enjoyed a superb first season with the Bundesliga giants, but must now place their friendship to one side for 90 minutes as they seek to put their respective countries into the last eight.
"We've been sending a few text messages to each other, but haven't spoken. Luca's the type of player who is always well positioned and is capable of scoring goals against us."
Ribery burst onto the international stage with a starring role in France's march to the FIFA World Cup™ Final two years ago where he was taken under the wing of veterans like Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira.
While at 25 he's no old-timer himself, he says his role as the fresh new face in the squad has evolved. "When I started it was me who listened to the older players, now that I'm around a little longer than some of the others I try and do the same thing."
The pugnacious midfielder with a killer touch has been one of the bright points in a disappointing campaign that has exposed France's frailties particularly in its aging defence.
A heavy loss
Reflecting on last Friday's 4-1 demolition by the Netherlands, France's heaviest loss in almost three decades, Ribery said: "It was very hard to take. We've talked a lot since and said to each other that we're still not finished. We'll play to the maximum against Italy and hope it works out.
"We've turned the page after the Dutch game and are now thinking only about Italy. It's going to be ' chaud' (hot). We've got to win, we've got to be ready in our heads - it's going to be a great battle."
Ribery says he's far happier in a free roaming role similar to the one Cristiano Ronaldo fulfils for Portugal. "I'm someone who likes to move around on the pitch and receive lots of ball. I feel liberated, a lot better against the Dutch than in our first game with Romania. But it wasn't enough. The coach knows me well, he knows my qualities."
He denied suggestions that there had been friction in the camp following the bitter 4-1 loss to the Netherlands. "There weren't any problems, no one was angry. We all spoke a lot, we said many things but now we have to die on the pitch and give our all."