France lament the absence of lost leader Zidane

France's Euro 2008 squad are missing Zinedine Zidane, the midfielder Franck Ribéry and the goalkeeper Grégory Coupet said yesterday. "He would take the ball and go and score three goals," Ribéry said as the team prepared for tomorrow's vital Group C game against Italy. "His presence would do everybody a lot of good," added the midfielder, a fan long before replacing him as France's playmaker.

Zidane retired after his headbutt on Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final defeat by Italy, and for the first time in more than a decade Les Bleus are playing at the finals of a major tournament without the inspiration behind their 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 victories.

Only after Zidane was persuaded to come out of retirement did France qualify for the 2006 World Cup. and Coupet said his absence was one of the reasons why France, beaten 4-1 by the Netherlands on Friday after drawing 0-0 with Romania on Monday, were toiling at these finals."We lost a great captain," he said. "It's not easy to replace the best player in the world. We're trying to rebuild a group without him. That's part of our problem."

To reach the quarter-finals, France need to beat Italy and hope Romania do not overcome the Dutch in Berne. "We all miss Zizou," Ribéry said. "In difficult situations like the one we're in now you can't help thinking about what a player like him could bring."

For Euro 2008 France were hoping to find the right mixture between ageing stalwarts and exciting newcomers. It has not worked out, partly because several of their most seasoned players are injured or below par. The captain Patrick Vieira, struggling with a thigh injury, has been kept in the squad but missed the first two matches. Defenders Lilian Thuram and Willy Sagnol looked their age against a Netherlands side that had too much pace.

France's two major problems have been that they were let down by their defence, which they believed was their strongest point, and looked clumsy in front of goal. They created chances against the Dutch but converted only one.

Midfield inspiration was also missing, and the young playmaker Samir Nasri has not been given a chance to prove his worth, having been limited to a substitute appearance against Romania. Ribéry said France must show no fear against Italy, however. "We're not dead yet," he said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent