Fans in raptures at prospect of Nasri and Gourcuff in midfield

Playmaking duo rekindle memories of Platini and Giresse but Blanc tries to calm nation's expectations

If there was any doubt about the French media's hunger for football success, it could be seen this week in their reaction to the suggestion that Laurent Blanc, the national coach, might pair two creative midfielders, Arsenal's Samir Nasri and Lyons' Yoann Gourcuff, for tonight's European Championship qualifier in Paris against Romania.

Nasri and Gourcuff played together for just nine minutes under the previous coach, Raymond Domenech, yet the pair were soon being compared with other great French midfield combinations of the past, such as Michel Platini and Alain Giresse in the early 1980s and Zinedine Zidane and Youri Djorkaeff at the turn of the century.

Blanc insisted that the press were jumping the gun and even yesterday he said that he had still to decide on a long-term system of play, let alone the personnel for his team's third match in their European Championship qualifying campaign. Having started off with a defeat at home to Belarus, the next four days offer a chance to build on last month's 2-0 victory away to Bosnia. France play Luxembourg in Metz on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the selection of Nasri and Gourcuff would be a logical choice for a coach committed to maintaining France's tradition of good football. Gourcuff, who flourished under Blanc at Bordeaux, and Nasri, an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, are the sort of players who can win the approval of a coach who admires Barcelona and Arsenal. "A ball in the air is a ball lost," Blanc tells his players in training.

"I like to see my teams play good football," the coach said yesterday. "And if we have a team that plays that way then I think we have a good chance of being successful."

Gourcuff, who said he had a similar vision of football to Nasri and could envisage them playing together, was asked to describe Blanc's brand of football. "To play with the ball, starting from defence," Gourcuff said. "It's based on a lot of movement, on players making themselves available, playing one-twos, playing it wide."

A key will be how much Blanc can get out of Karim Benzema, who has been an enigma ever since his big-money move from Lyons to Real Madrid. The 22-year-old striker's club form has been indifferent and he admitted last year that he did not always try his best for France.

Jose Mourinho, his coach at Real, says Benzema needs to show more character, while Blanc said earlier this year that he should watch his diet. Mourinho said recently: "I talk a lot to Laurent about Karim. Both of us think he has great qualities. But he perhaps needs to play with a bit more ambition."

Nevertheless, with nine goals in 29 appearances, including a fine strike in the win over Bosnia, Benzema has scored more goals at his age for France than any other post-war player with the exception of David Trezeguet. The coach is optimistic that he can deliver. "He is very fired up," Blanc said. "He's showing great commitment."

Blanc has not decided on his captain in the long term and has yet to name one for tonight's match. Florent Malouda, Philippe Mexès and Alou Diarra have filled the role so far.

The coach wants leaders throughout his team and is still assessing his players. With that in mind he has brought in a psychologist to assess their personalities.

"In individual sports, you get a lot of top sportsmen who have a mental coach or a profiler, whatever you want to call it," Blanc said. "There have been some good results in golf and tennis. It's a bit harder in a team sport. You have people with different characters. Some people are more introverted and some more extroverted."

Had Domenech brought in a psychologist it might have been derided as another wacky idea, but the players seem happy to give Blanc the benefit of the doubt.

"The players got involved without having any second thoughts and I did the same work on myself 15 days ago," Blanc said. "Some people still don't know who they are at 80 years old and never know who they are throughout their lives. So if we can help people know themselves better, then there's no danger. Don't think we went into a dark room with someone and lay down on a yellow couch. It's just someone who came here with some methods of his own to help us create an individual profile for each player."

Three games, three captains - who will Blanc pick next?

Philippe Mexes

The Roma defender captained Les Bleus against Norway in August on his 16th appearance, where a depleted French side lost 2-1.

Florent Malouda

The Chelsea winger led France out at home to Belarus last month. However, he could do little to prevent France suffering another embarrassing defeat.

Alou Diarra

The Bordeaux midfielder became Blanc's third captain in as many games, as France recorded their first win of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-0.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?