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The France squad in training yesterday.
The France squad in training yesterday.

Euro 2012: Laurent Blanc says France have put arguments behind them

La Roja have never beaten Les Bleus in a competitive match, but the French have had internal problems after their shock defeat to Sweden.

DONETSK, UKRAINE // Laurent Blanc, the France coach, says his side needed "serenity and distance" ahead of tonight's quarter-final against Spain.

They got the distance, having returned to the east of Ukraine from Kiev after the dressing-room blow-out which followed a first defeat in 24 matches, against Sweden in their final pool match.

Donetsk is just 60 kilometres from the Russian border and the French have been based here for the duration of the tournament.

With little to do in this industrial city other than train, it was perhaps little surprise a few players needed to blow off steam.

Whether they have found the "serenity", which the French tour party have been at pains to say exists this week, will be seen when they meet the world's No 1 side at the Donbass Arena.

"We know where we've come from and where we're going," Blanc said yesterday. "It's true that there was tension in the dressing room and reactions like that are never good to hear.

"You have to try to calm people down, or speak to people the next day to establish a calm. The paradox is that we qualified for the quarter-finals.

"We were disappointed with the result and I had to try to calm everyone down, but I told the guys we have an interesting match to prepare for. You need serenity and distance."

Hugo Lloris, France's undemonstrative captain, said the serious business of a meeting with the world champions ensured the cross words were not allowed to linger.

"Everyone can say what they want in the dressing room," Lloris said. "It is normal that there is a reaction when you lose, but I wanted us to concentrate on [tonight's] game as soon as possible."

Despite their troubled build-up, the French have good reason to feel optimistic. The defeat against Sweden did not stop them from progressing from the pool stage, and their form previous to that under Blanc's stewardship had been outstanding.

Further, Spain have never beaten France in a competitive fixture and Les Bleus were the last team to eliminate them from a major international tournament, at the World Cup in 2006.

The French infighting has not gone unnoticed by their opposition. Spain, too, have often been accused of having a fragile peace within their own ranks, given the fierce rivalry during domestic matches between their contingent of Real Madrid and Barcelona players.

"In a competition like this, the objectives are more important than any conflicts in the dressing room," said Sergio Ramos, the Madrid defender.

"Arguments happen in any family, any home and dressing rooms are similar. Once the match starts, it won't matter. I think they've already forgotten it. They've said they're concentrating on Spain."

Vicente del Bosque, Spain's manager, reckons the form of his side's opponents before their most recent outing will be more of a guide than what went on in the immediate aftermath of it.

"The match they lost against Sweden was not really telling about anything," Del Bosque said. "Before that they went a long time without losing; this is what we have to focus on. Some players can be difficult to cope with, but as long as they play well on the field, that is the important thing."

pradley@thenational.ae

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