France cautious heading into Swedish tilt

France's coach Laurent Blanc (L) watches Patrice Evra (R) during a training session ahead of their...

France's coach Laurent Blanc (L) watches Patrice Evra (R) during a training session ahead of their Euro 2012 soccer match against Sweden. (REUTERS)

Mike Zeisberger, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:52 PM ET

Given the fact that the French held a near-mutiny en route to being booted out of South Africa via elimination and humiliation after just three games at the 2010 World Cup, Laurent Blanc will not allow his team to become complacent.

After all, no one in their wildest dreams could have predicted those events two years ago.

They did, unlikely as they may have been.

This time around, it seems just as far fetched, if not more, that the French can somehow be stopped from advancing to the fnal eight in Euro 2012.

Yet, as Blanc and the legion of fans of Les Bleus are well aware, anything can happen.

They learned that lesson in South Africa.

Blanc, who replaced the disgraced Raymond Domenech as manager of France after the 2010 World Cup, has warned his team about being too cocky heading into their final Group D game against winless Sweden Tuesday, even though it appears the road to the quarterfinals is a smooth one.

"There is always the fear that after you win a match, you take your eye off the ball," Blanc said, cautioning his team not to get too high after its 2-0 win over Ukraine on Friday.

Blanc added that the French must be cautious in the way they prepare.

Had he left it at that, it might have been all well and good. But then he took a backhanded swipe at rival England, pointing out how Roy Hodgson's side spent much of the 1-1 draw between the two rivals on July 11 playing defensive, conservative soccer.

"The English sat back and allowed France to come at them," he said. "I think if we want against a result (versus the Swedes), we must play football. There's nothing worse than not achieving the result you desire by not playing football."

Ouch.

You can bet those quotes will be used as bulletin board fodder by the English. Interestingly, if both teams hold serve in their next three games, they could meet in the final in Kiev on July 1.

To get there, France needs to take the next step by advancing with a win or a draw Tuesday. If the French lose, they will only be out if England loses to Ukraine but, at the same time, move level with the Three Lions on either goal difference or goals scored.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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