France coach Raymond Domenech has warned that nothing short of victory will suffice against old foes the Faroe Islands, now managed by former Republic of Ireland boss Brian Kerr, in Wednesday's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier.
A glance at the Group 7 standings explains the French boss's unease ahead of the game in Torshavn with his men lagging eight points behind leaders Serbia, albeit with two games in hand. The winners of each group qualify automatically for South Africa with the best runners-up being forced into a play-off, an eventuality Domenech wants to avoid at all costs.
"Anything barring victory is a catastrophe," the man who led France to the 2006 FIFA World Cup final insisted in a video published on the French Football Federation's website. Domenech added: "If the team plays to its level we know that we can win the match, but if we under perform, if we ask ourselves questions, if we think about what happens afterwards...
If the team plays to its level we know that we can win the match, but if we under perform, if we ask ourselves questions,
"This is a game that can lead us (to South Africa) or knock us out of World Cup qualifying, we have to fully take onboard the importance of this fixture." France are no strangers to this island of 48,000 inhabitants halfway between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic, and they will be praying for a less eventful journey than in 2007.
On that occasion atrocious weather led to a horror flight with Thierry Henry and company eventually touching down just four hours before kick-off after spending half a day travelling. That didn't prevent them running out 6-0 winners on their way to qualifying for UEFA Euro 2008, and Domenech is looking for a similarly assured performance this time around.
He stressed the importance of scoring smartly against rivals that are ranked 154 places below France in FIFA's world standings. "We have to score that first goal which can make the difference like (in the 6-0 win in 2007) and not suffer like martyrs because we can't score (as in 2004 when France edged the encounter 2-0) and remain at the mercy of a corner, free-kick or a counter-attack."
To general surprise he named Franck Ribery in his squad despite the Bayern Munich star missing the weekend's Bundesliga curtain-raiser with Hoffenheim following his problems with first blisters, then tendonitis. "He could be useful for us even if it's just for a brief spell," the French boss said last week.
Captain Patrick Vieira, who is lacking match fitness, did not make the call-up, and Barcelona dangerman Henry was ruled out on Monday with an Achilles tendon problem.