France coach Raymond Domenech has urged his players to take the team spirit they showed in their 3-1 defeat of Austria into next month's FIFA World Cup™ play-offs.
Les Bleus stormed to victory in their final qualifier last night thanks to goals from Karim Benzema, Thierry Henry and Andre-Pierre Gignac. The result and performance, coupled with Saturday's 5-0 defeat of the Faroe Islands which saw them book their place in the play-offs, will have done much to silence their critics - especially because Les Bleus, who had previously scored only 10 goals in eight games, have rattled in eight in the past two matches.
Domenech is delighted with the mood in the squad. "We scored goals - there were some really good moves, really good periods," he said. "Above all there was a group of 24 players in this match, plus others who weren't there, who showed each time their determination.
"They want to push forward, to wrap up the match, to score - and that's something I like. It's what we're trying to do. Whoever goes on to the pitch, we are all in the same spirit - we want to go to South Africa, and we know what we have to do."
Whoever goes on to the pitch, we are all in the same spirit - we want to go to South Africa, and we know what we have to do.
It is a very different story to last month's double-header when the mood in the camp reached a seemingly all-time low. There were reports of a bust-up between Domenech and his players, while Benzema stunned fans with his admission that he had not really felt like playing against Serbia and had struggled to give his all.
Les Bleus seem to have put that firmly behind them, and Domenech hopes that continues into the playoffs. He added: "The result was positive tonight. But the truth will be in a month. What's important is to keep this dynamic, whichever players are there, to continue in the same vein."
France are likely to be pitted against one of Ukraine, Republic of Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina or Slovenia - because they are set to be among the seeded teams, along with Russia, France, Greece and Portugal.
Domenech insists he is unconcerned about Monday's draw. "I don't have any preference," he said. "My preference is to qualify for the World Cup. Whatever the team will be, it will be tricky; they will want to cling on, to beat us.
"We will take whoever we are drawn against - telling ourselves that they're tough opponents, who also want to qualify for the World Cup. There are two matches, and everyone has a chance."
FIFA.com will be streaming the European play-off draw directly from the Home of FIFA in Zurich on Monday at 14:00 CET.