Frustrated France defuse tension before Spain game

DONETSK Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:38am EDT

France's soccer players Yann M'Vila (L) and Karim Benzema (R) stretch during a training session at the team's training center in Kircha near Donetsk June 20, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

France's soccer players Yann M'Vila (L) and Karim Benzema (R) stretch during a training session at the team's training center in Kircha near Donetsk June 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Charles Platiau

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DONETSK (Reuters) - Tensions may have risen in the France dressing room after they lost their final Euro 2012 group game but they are ready to start from scratch against Spain in Saturday's quarter-final.

Assistant coach Alain Boghossian, a 1998 world champion who was on the staff at the 2010 World Cup when off-pitch dramas led to an embarrassing first-round exit, revealed that strong words were exchanged after Tuesday's 2-0 Group D defeat by Sweden.

But he said it was nothing compared to the fiasco at the 2010 World Cup, when the players went on strike in support of forward Nicolas Anelka, who had been kicked out of the squad for insulting then coach Raymond Domenech.

"There were quarrels, well, let's say exchanges, but it's normal in a dressing room," he told a news conference on Thursday.

"It would have been worse if nothing had happened. It's like in a couple, if you sweep the problems under the rug, at some point, it will explode.

Winger Florent Malouda had similarly told reporters on Wednesday: "It's normal to send some missiles in a dressing room after a defeat".

Boghossian did not deny that forward Hatem Ben Arfa and coach Laurent Blanc had an argument but he said the row was over as the French try to put behind them a loss that ended a 23-match unbeaten run.

"That defeat was a staggering blow. There was a lot of frustration that had to be eliminated. They could have done it by punching doors, they chose to talk about it," added Boghossian.

"Everyone said what they had to say. We start from scratch. Nothing is broken, it's quite the opposite. The fire has been put out."

NO OUTCAST

Boghossian, however, denied that Samir Nasri, who has been disappointing after a good performance against England in their opening game, was the outcast in the squad.

"The players all talk between themselves, they play PlayStation together," he said. "They eat together, they smile."

"It's up to him (Nasri) to show that he is not fazed by the critics. He is strong enough mentally to cope with the critics," said Boghossian.

Whether France have managed to restore harmony in time for the Spain game in Donetsk will determine if they can go through.

The solution has to be a collective one, said Malouda.

"The fact we had those discussions shows we have character. We raised some problems, we have to solve them," he said.

"If you want to be a hero, you move away from the group. If you tell yourself Euro is your chance to shine individually, it can spread within the squad and it can make the whole thing derail.

"If we don't correct this, the bill will be very, very steep."

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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