France are 'regressing', says Le Graet
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The French Football Federation president has admitted his nation has been "regressing" in recent matches, but Noel Le Graet remains firmly convinced France will qualify for Brazil 2014.
Les Bleus have failed to score in their last five outings and are just 21 minutes shy of their country's all-time record for failing to hit the net. The optimism created by their 1-1 draw in Spain last October has all but dissipated as a consequence of Didier Deschamps' men finding themselves three points behind the reigning world and European champions, who lead Group I, with qualifiers running out.
Having seen the team struggle to a goalless draw in Georgia last Friday ahead of Tuesday's encounter in Belarus, Le Graet acknowledged in an interview with Le Parisien that the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winners have been far from impressive of late.
He said: "In our play, yes, we're regressing. The draw against Spain gave us a lot of hope, but there are attenuating circumstances. There have been a lot of changes to the first-choice line-up.
"They weren't the fault of the coach. We've had injuries and suspensions. With time, we're going to get back the right players in the right positions. The team is going to come back very strongly."
Banned for the game in Tbilisi, Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba will both return for the match in Gomel where Deschamps will again have to decide whether or not to pair the out-of-form Karim Benzema with Olivier Giroud, or perhaps even drop the Real Madrid forward, who has not scored an international goal in more than a year, in favour of the Arsenal striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Le Graet is convinced regardless of the choice he makes, Deschamps will come up with the right answer.
"Of course he's the man the situation calls for. Didier's not jumping for joy with these results either, but I have no doubts about him. I hope to see him stay for as long as possible," said the FFF boss, who is optimistic the former Monaco, Juventus and Marseille coach will steer his team safely to Brazil albeit via the play-offs.
"I'm convinced of it. People have a tough time understanding that you don't qualify without a few bumps along the way. They're still stuck on 1998 and 2006. We'll need the support of the public. Like us, the fans have to prepare themselves for the play-offs."