French flair is a la mode

England beware. After a shambolic World Cup Les Bleus are thriving again and will be formidable group opposition. By Andy Brassell

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The Independent Online

France's 2-1 friendly victory in Germany was the surprise of international week, prompting boos from the Bremen crowd. Given their precarious relationship with their own home crowd at the Stade de France, Les Bleus probably spared a thought for their hosts.

"We're starting to build something good," Tottenham's Louis Saha said after the match, "especially away from home. Germany are well-renowned, so we proved today that we're a good team." Little by little, France are beginning to recover the trust of a nation scandalised by the players' training strike in protest at Nicolas Anelka's expulsion from the 2010 World Cup squad in South Africa. Bridges are being built ahead of the Euro 2012 opener against England in Donetsk on 11 June.

After South Africa, France started from scratch under Laurent Blanc, a legend from the 1998 World Cup-winning side. French outrage at their team's behaviour meant all 23 World Cup squad members were banned from the new coach's debut, an August 2010 friendly in Norway.

The shoots of recovery have been promising, thanks to the emergence of players like Yann M'Vila – who made his debut in that match in Oslo – and Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye. Victory at the Weserstadion extended France's unbeaten run to 18 matches, and though Blanc has suggested his team "lack a bit of personality and experience", beating Joachim Löw's side means they cannot fly under the radar for much longer.

"It's rare for a team to come to Germany and get a result," said Chelsea's Florent Malouda, who added to Olivier Giroud's first-half opener to make victory safe at 2-0 after 69 minutes."It's not just the win, but also our performance and quality of play that's good for confidence."

A pillar of France's golden generation as a player, Blanc (left) sets the bar high and saw no shame in trying to learn from Germany. "They're one of the cornerstones of European – and world – football," he said. "It's not industrial espionage. Germany are a great team. I'm expecting mine to finally show some improvements."

A long-time Arsenal target, M'Vila played in Bremen with the poise of a holding midfielder 10 years his senior, and the renewal of the central defensive partnership of Philippe Mexès and Adil Rami was a huge boost for Blanc. France have not conceded more than once in this hot streak.

The biggest surprise for England come summer in Ukraine may be the relative youth of Blanc's line-up. France are itching to bury past mistakes, and England should beware.

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