Blanc rues suspensions

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PARIS, August 19 – France coach Laurent Blanc on Wednesday expressed his regret over the suspensions handed to four of his players for their roles in France's World Cup fiasco.Nicolas Anelka was handed an 18-match ban by the disciplinary commission of the French Football Federation (FFF) on Tuesday, with Jeremy Toulalan, Franck Ribery and Patrice Evra banned for one, three and five games respectively.

Eric Abidal was also summoned by the commission, but avoided punishment.

The players were punished for their roles in the infamous player revolt in South Africa, when the entire squad refused to train in protest at the FFF’s decision to send Anelka home for swearing at coach Raymond Domenech.

"It’s obviously not an ideal situation for French football, which will need all its top players when the qualifying games for Euro 2012 begin," said Blanc in a statement.

He added that he would nonetheless "observe the decisions… knowing that they could be open to appeals".

"I hoped to find a fresh situation at the end of August with the South African page definitively turned after the completion, at my suggestion, of a collective sanction that struck me as both necessary and sufficient," added Blanc, referring to his exclusion of all 23 members of France’s World Cup squad for the 2-1 friendly defeat in Norway on August 11.

"That’s not the case and there’s no point dwelling on it. I’ll therefore make my choices for the next matches within the context of what has been, or will be, imposed upon me.

"The only worry for my staff and myself now is to put together the best squad possible for the matches at the beginning of September against Belarus and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the hope of seeing the same spirit of initiative, the desire to go forward and play, that we saw (against Norway) in Oslo."

France were eliminated from the World Cup in the group stage after drawing with Uruguay and losing to Mexico and hosts South Africa.

They begin their qualification campaign for the 2012 European Championship at home to Belarus on September 3.

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