Domenech calls on new guard for Austria

September 4, 2008

VIENNA, Sept 4 (Reuters) - A new-look team will be aiming to restore France's faith in coach Raymond Domenech when the Euro 2008 underachievers begin their World Cup qualifying campaign against Austria on Saturday.

France will have a 23-year-old goalkeeper in Steve Mandanda and a defence without retired stalwart Lilian Thuram, France's most capped player. In contrast right back Bakari Sagna has apeared only three times for his country.

Midfield will also be reshuffled after the departure of Cluade Makelele, who has retired, and in the continued absence of injured 32-year-old captain Patrick Vieira.

In attack they will miss the speed and ingenuity of the injured Franck Ribery.

France limped out in the group stage of the European Championship and Domenech has returned in battling mood.

'It will be a game for fighters. We saw how Austria played at the Euro finals, they are very powerful and they like to put their opponents under pressure,' Domenech told reporters this week.

'We are not there for tourism. If we are not able to fight for the ball then we must have no illusions,' he added.

In-form Karim Benzema will partner new captain Thierry Henry up front and Domenech can also call on young midfielder Samir Nasri who has made an impressive start in the English Premier League with new club Arsenal.

The 21-year-old Nasri made his senior debut for France in a friendly win over Austria in Paris last year, firing in the free kick that Benzema converted for the game's only goal.

Austria also suffered a group stage exit as joint Euro 2008 co-hosts along with neighbouring Switzerland but, unlike the French, managed to exceed most of their supporters' expectations.

Widely predicted to be the whipping boys of the tournament, the Austrians under then coach Josef Hickersberger held Poland to a 1-1 draw and were beaten by a single goal in their other matches against Croatia and eventual runners-up Germany.

Now coached by former Czech Republic trainer Karel Brueckner, Austria demonstrated their growing confidence last month when they held world champions Italy to a deserved 2-2 draw in Nice.

Brueckner is expected to stick predominantly to his starting line-up from that match, allowing defensive all-rounder Paul Scharner to play his first competitive international in nearly three years.

The Wigan player missed out on Euro 2008 after a public falling out with Hickersberger in 2006.

Panathinaikos midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz has retained the Austrian captaincy after Brueckner told the players to hold a dressing room vote on the matter.