PARIS, September 6 – Laurent Blanc has warned France they will face a physical, intimidating challenge when they seek to get their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign back on track against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday.
France travel to Sarajevo bedevilled by injuries and suspensions, and Blanc believes they must start the game strongly if they are to stand any chance of getting a positive result.
"We watched the Bosnians this (Sunday) morning and they’re a pretty physical team," said Blanc.
"It’ll be a unique context and we’ll get a fairly hostile reception."
France prevailed 2-1 in a friendly game on their last visit to Sarajevo in August 2006, but they approach Tuesday’s game in a fragile state after the shock of their 1-0 defeat at the hands of Belarus in Paris on Friday.
Up to 30,000 spectators are expected to attend the game and Blanc says his inexperienced players cannot afford to start in the same ponderous manner as they did against Belarus — their fourth consecutive defeat.
"We’ll have to increase our physical impact," said the France coach.
"We’re still a bit tender, the Bosnians will intimidate us and we’ll need to have the weapons to respond."
Asked if that meant experienced holding midfielder Alou Diarra, overlooked in favour of 20-year-old Yann M’Vila against Belarus, stood a chance of starting the game, Blanc said simply: "Among others."
Blanc was seen encouraging his young charges to attack against Belarus and he said they need to learn to play with the hand-brake off.
"We could have taken more risks in attack, but for the moment the young players are asking themselves too many questions," he said.
Bosnia-Herzegovina only missed out on a place at the World Cup when they lost in the European qualifying play-offs to Portugal.
They began their Group D campaign with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Luxembourg and will relish the prospect of confronting France’s inexperienced young players.
"If there’s ever a good moment to take on the French players, it’s now," said attacking midfielder Miralem Pjanic, who plays for French side Lyon.
"This is one of the best teams Bosnia have ever had and we’ve been playing with the same players for the last two years now. France are missing lots of players. It’s our chance. And the stadium will be full to bursting."
Bosnia coach Safet Susic says his side "fear no-one" at their Asim Ferhatovic-Hase stadium and skipper Emir Spahic believes they are ready to take the next step and qualify for a first major tournament.
"We acquired loads of experience in the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup," said the Montpellier centre-back.
"We can get there. (Edin) Dzeko is one of the best strikers in Europe. The whole country lives for moments like these."
France have lost strikers Loic Remy, Louis Saha and Guillaume Hoarau after all three injured themselves against Belarus, but Lyon forward Jimmy Briand has been called into the squad and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has declared himself fit.
"I’m ready to fight for my place at both Real and in the French team," said Benzema, who missed the Belarus game with an ankle injury.
"I am fit, I have returned to training normally, and I am fine physically."
Samir Nasri and Lassana Diarra are injured for France, while Yoann Gourcuff is serving the second game of a two-match suspension and Patrice Evra and Franck Ribery have been banned by the French Football Federation.
Bosnia reported a clean bill of health after their defeat of Luxembourg, with Pjanic and Wolfsburg playmaker Zvezdjan Misimovic expected to continue supplying the bullets for Dzeko and his striker partner Vedad Ibisevic.