An emboldened Raymond Domenech on Monday said he was relishing the massive task of rebuilding the French national set-up, ahead of his youthful side's friendly against Sweden.
Domenech has been under heavy scrutiny since France's dismal showing at the UEFA EURO championships in June, surviving a French Football Federation (FFF) confidence vote by the narrowest of margins weeks later.
"I'm more motivated when I'm under pressure," Domenech said on the FFF website on Monday. "It's a fight on a high level. I'm in my element. The sword is out. I need to go into battle. I'm more than motivated, I'm all fired up."
Domenech, who steered France to the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ final, last week named his squad for the friendly match in Gothenburg, which was notable for its reliance on youth and freshness. In came Rennes right-back Rod Fanni and Yoann Gourcuff of Bordeaux, both winning their first caps, and Philippe Mexes, who replaces retired Lilian Thuram, as the coach rebuilds the squad in time for South Africa 2010 qualifiers, which begin early next month.
"Finally it's time. I'm impatient. I want to find players, to relaunch the machine," said Domenech, referring to the glory days which saw France win the 1998 FIFA World Cup and 2000 EURO Championships. "It's a new departure with a rejuvenated squad and our objective is clear - (South) Africa and the World Cup."
Reaching that objective may be a little more plausible after Domenech called up Arsenal's in-form star Samir Nasri on Monday to replace withdrawn Marseille midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa. Nasri scored on his Gunners debut last week, which will be welcome news to Domenech, whose side sorely lacked firepower at EURO 2008, netting only once as they went out in the first round with one draw and two defeats.
But the 21-year-old is reluctant to be compared with French soccer icon Zinedine Zidane. "It's flattering of course, to be compared to Zidane but it's a little bit annoying as well," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
"It's a lot of pressure on my shoulders and really hard to be compared to probably the best footballer of the last ten years. When you are a young player, you don't tend to play well every week so it is a lot of pressure."
Wednesday's friendly with Sweden will give Domenech the opportunity to try out new players and formations as he looks to bolster the new talent with squad regulars. The Gothenburg match will "bring the players together, even for a short time, to discover where we're at, without there being anything really at stake points-wise. It will allow us to sort things out."
Domenech will be joined on the touchline on Wednesday by Alain Boghossian, who is tasting his first game as part of the national coaching set-up. A former French international, Boghossian, 37, who played for Marseille, was parachuted into the staff after the FFF stipulated that Domenech be aided in his crucial preparations for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
France begin their FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign against Austria on 6 September and Serbia on 10 September.