France won't be distracted by Argentina glamour

France will be looking for more than just a high-profile exhibition match during Wednesday night’s international friendly against Argentina, striker Djibril Cisse warned.

Cisse said that all eyes would be firmly focused on next month’s Euro 2008 qualifier against Lithuania rather than the South Americans.

The World Cup finalists are second in group B for the European championships in two years time, with nine points from four games, after suffering just one loss to leaders Scotland.

After the Lithuania game in March, there will also be a key tie against Italy in September, and a visit to the Ukraine in November.

“Argentina is a choice game, anyone would love to play this match but the coach is looking towards the Lithuania game,” said Cisse.

“Against Argentina we can have an exhibition match or get down to business—I’m not into beach football myself, it’s not my style.

“I see beyond this match towards the qualifiers which will allow me to be there the next time,” said Cisse.

It will the first meeting between the two countries since 1986 when the French won 2-0, though, the Diego Maradonna-inspired Argentinians were to capture the greater prize a few months later with the World Cup.

But if meeting Argentina is a new experience for some of the younger players it won’t be for David Trezeguet, born in Normandy to Argentinian parents, or Cisse who played in a France-Argentina under-20 game in 2001.

Raymond Domenech, looking to rebuild a team post-Zinedine Zidane, is counting on Cisse’s promising partnership with France teammate Franck Ribery at Marseille to carry over to les Bleus.

“It’s great that the coach has called on us even if we’ve only being playing two months together,” said Ribery. “With ‘Djib’ we’re often together in training and afterwards. We’re getting on better and better.”

The 2000 European champions have however an injury crisis in defence with Philippe Mexes, William Gallas and Jean-Alain Boumsong out injured and Lilian Thuram and Sebastien Squillaci uncertain as they struggle for fitness.

Domenech has called up Marseille’s Julien Rodriguez and Arsenal’s Mathieu Flamini as a security measure.

Argentina coach Alfio Basile will be without midfielder Pablo Aimar and striker Aldo Duscher, with young Real Madrid midfielder Fernando Gago uncertain for his first call-up with a muscular problems.

But veteran captain Robert Ayala and Javier Zanetti believe that Arsenal captain Thierry Henry will be the man to watch.

“We respect France as a whole.
It has players who could cause us problems like Henry, and not forgetting Ribery,” said Zanetti.

But Ayala added: “We fear Henry the most.

“We know that he’s the man to watch, but France counts on team play. They have an experienced defence, a midfield that gives few opportunities, and very fast players up front.” - AFP

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