France captain Zinedine Zidane has affirmed he will be back to his best when he leads ‘Les Bleus’ out at the Stade de France for a crucial World Cup qualifier against Cyprus here on Wednesday.
Zidane performed well below his capabilities in France’s 1-1 away draw against Switzerland on Saturday which he explained by his desire to share the responsibities of a team in which he is a vital cog.
France must hope to win – and score three more goals than Switzerland do when they challenge the Republic of Ireland in Dublin – if they are to win Group four and gain direct entry to the World Cup.
For the Real Madrid playmaker, who returned to the international fray Saturday after being out injured for several weeks, the need for goals against Cyprus is paramount.
“I’m feeling much better (than Saturday). I had a few problems with my groin, which was normal because I haven’t played much in the past month,” he said here Tuesday at the team’s training centre just outside Paris.
“The past few days I’ve recuperated really well. I admit that I played a lot worse than I’d hoped to on Saturday – everyone saw that. But I’m really feeling much better.
“And at the end of the day it’s our job. Everyone has to take their responsibilities, and I took mine. The important thing is that we didn’t lose.”
France have played some sterling football in their qualifying campaign, but crucially have failed to score the goals which could prove decisive late on Wednesday night.
It has left some players wishing they had taken full advantage of playing against weaker teams like the Faroe Islands.
“It’s true that we didn’t really give it too much thought before the match (against the Faroe Islands), even though at half time we did say we should start to put away as many chances as possible,” added Zidane.
“Against Cyprus, we’re going to have to get into the match immediately and score as many goals as possible.”
Zidane initially said the team would be “playing with two strikers, so we will be more offensive (than against Switzerland)”.
However coach Raymond Domenech later announced his starting line-up with Djibril Cisse playing as a lone striker.
France’s hopes also lie with Ireland, who were beaten 1-0 at Lansdowne Road when Zidane and co. visited last month.
The Republic will be going out to rescue their own campaign against the Swiss, and Zidane doesn’t even want to consider a defeat for the hosts.
“I think that theoretically, the Swiss can win in Ireland. But really, I don’t want to think about it. I hope it doesn’t happen.
“When we played against them on Saturday they gave it 110 percent, so perhaps they’ll be feeling the physical effects of that.
“And also Ireland has to at least win to have any chance of qualifying. If that hope didn’t exist for them, it might be a different match altogether.
“At the end of the day we can’t think too much about what’s going on elsewhere. To qualify automatically would be good. If not, we’ll have to wait and see …”