France news

Patrice Evra speech spurred France on

September 11, 2013
By Ian Holyman, France Correspondent

Franck Ribery has praised Patrice Evra for giving a Churchillian half-time team-talk to inspire France to victory in Belarus and clinch a 2014 World Cup play-off berth.

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Les Bleus may yet overhaul Spain at the top of Group I -- though the reigning world and European champions have a game in hand -- but their 4-2 triumph in Gomel on Tuesday assured Didier Deschamps' men of at least finishing second in the section to earn a chance to go to Brazil.

The scenario was somewhat less rosy at the break, however, with the team's goalless streak extended to all-time record proportions for a senior France side and the hosts a goal up.

Though they again fell behind after Ribery had equalised from the penalty spot, the Bayern Munich man levelled the scores again before Samir Nasri and Paul Pogba struck to seal the win. Ribery put France's second-half renaissance down to the inspiring words of Evra, dropped to the bench following last Friday's goalless draw in Georgia.

"Pat gave a great speech, a man's speech which did us a lot of good," Ribery, who had been struggling with a muscle injury sustained in Friday's encounter in Tbilisi, told reporters after the match. "It gave us courage and determination because we were really down at the break. He simply told us to play, to let ourselves go, that we respected the Belarusian team, but that we were the French team, that we were stronger than them and that if we wanted to qualify for the play-offs, we had to show a different face and ask questions of ourselves.

"Other players might have said they couldn't play, but I am a generous person. I always try to give everything for the team. The physios worked tremendously hard to enable me to play. And I'm really happy for the French team because it could be a turning point for us."

Deschamps, 44, will certainly hope so having seen his side toil in the first 45 minutes, which proved as frustrating and turgid as the entire 90 minutes four days earlier.

Close to Evra since bringing the Manchester United man into the Monaco first team during their mutual spell in the principality, Deschamps also acknowledged his substitute left-back's contribution to the success.

"There are players who spoke and yes, Patrice, even though he didn't play, had an important role," the coach told his post-match press conference. "What's more, he was in a difficult personal situation because he was bereaved in the afternoon, even if that's not the reason I didn't pick him.

"Certain players are more apt to speak than others. But we have to feed off what we did in terms of the solidarity shown."

France's 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000-winning captain would have been delighted to hear the squad rally behind current skipper and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, at fault for both Belarusian goals.

"We got ourselves into trouble and I'm the first one responsible for that with a difficult evening for me individually. There are complicated evenings for goalkeepers, that was the case tonight," the Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper said. "But I don't think it was connected to a certain pre-match tension. They're the ups and downs of a season, of a match."

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