Ribery, Evra seek to heal World Cup sores

Laurent Blanc revealed on Wednesday that Yoann Gourcuff and Franck Ribery have held clear-the-air talks, as France continue the healing process after the trauma of last year's World Cup.

Updated: March 23, 2011 21:57 IST
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Paris: Laurent Blanc revealed on Wednesday that Yoann Gourcuff and Franck Ribery have held clear-the-air talks, as France continue the healing process after the trauma of last year's World Cup.

Rumours of ill-feeling between the two midfielders stalked France's catastrophic campaign in South Africa, with Ribery typically cast as the villain of the piece by the media and Gourcuff the unfortunate victim.

Earlier this week Ribery declared himself upset by Gourcuff's failure to publicly quash the rumours but Blanc said that the pair have since spoken in a bid to repair their relationship.

"On what happened before, I can't really say anything because I'm not necessarily up to speed," Blanc told reporters at France's Clairefontaine training base.

"But it appears you (the media) think there's a problem between Yoann Gourcuff and Franck Ribery, and now I can intervene because I'm inside the group.

"(Ribery) tried to express how he feels, which is very good. They had a discussion, which confirms what I've told you. There is no particular problem between Yoann Gourcuff and Franck Ribery."

Blanc's squad announcement for Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier in Luxembourg and the March 29 friendly at home to Croatia marked a return to the fold for Ribery and Patrice Evra for the first time since the World Cup.

Both men's reputations were seriously tarnished by events in South Africa, with Evra identified as the man chiefly responsible for the infamous training ground strike in Knynsa due to his role as captain.

Bans -- three games for Ribery, five for Evra -- saw both players frozen out of the picture as Blanc rebuilt the fragilised squad he had inherited from previous coach Raymond Domenech.

Ribery's return was further delayed by a series of injuries, but his scintillating recent form for Bayern Munich has demonstrated why Blanc considers an in-form Ribery to be an "indispensable" part of his line-up.

Evra was overlooked for last month's friendly with Brazil, despite his ban having expired, but he has now been drafted in after first-choice left-back Eric Abidal underwent emergency surgery to remove a tumour on his liver.

Both Ribery and Evra are poised to start against Luxembourg on Friday, when Group D leaders France will be gunning for a sixth consecutive victory.

Evra could face a hostile reception from the home fans when Croatia visit Paris next Tuesday but he is determined to put what he calls the "scar" of what happened in South Africa behind him.

"I want to turn the page and be a solution, not a problem," said the Manchester United man, who held face-to-face talks with Blanc on Monday evening.

"After eighth months of absence, it's with very great pride and very great pleasure that I return to the France team, which I've missed enormously.

"People who know the real Evra know that I've not given up on anything. But the most difficult part is still to come.

"It's up to me to turn things around so that people can see me as someone who wants to invest himself in a much better future."

France beat Luxembourg 2-0 when the sides met in October in Metz and Friday's hosts find themselves bottom of the group after four matches, with only a single point to their name.

Blanc is expected to field an attacking 4-3-3 formation, with Gourcuff and Samir Nasri of Arsenal deployed in midfield alongside Rennes anchorman Yann M'Vila.

Chelsea's Florent Malouda is tipped to continue on the left flank of the attack, obliging Ribery to switch to the right, in support of in-form Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.

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