Paris: France winger Florent Malouda has urged his teammates to forget how tired they feel and "give it one last push" in Monday's match against Ukraine and another friendly in Poland three days later.
A sloppy France side was somewhat fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw away to Belarus in a European Championship qualifier on Friday night. Several players, notably Franck Ribery, looked to be on their last legs.
Malouda, who scored France's equalizer, says the two friendlies in Donetsk and Warsaw are important for the team's continuity, even though he admits he is counting down the days to his summer holiday.
"There are two matches left and we have to give it one last push," Malouda said after the Belarus game. "But what's for sure is that the holidays will be very welcome after that."
Coach Laurent Blanc was disappointed by his team's performance against a spirited Belarus side, and is likely to make several changes and make the most of a large squad over the two games.
"The desire was there, but it's the body that decides," Blanc said. "If you're not at least as fit as your opponents, it becomes hard to win matches."
Though France tops Group D with 13 points from six matches, Blanc is still trying to instill confidence and a fluent style of play into a team that was hit hard by its debacle at the World Cup last year.
While France has at times shown glimpses of its old flair, there is still an alarming tendency to start games slowly, while the defense looks vulnerable to free kicks - with Belarus' goal coming from a set-piece.
"We played badly ... the result was not what we came for. We had trouble with the pace of the game," Malouda said. "They managed to control the game and cause us problems. We were better in the second half in the way we combined, but it's clearly not enough."
The team clearly still lacks a natural leader to help turn a dour draw into a win. The armband has been shared this season between Malouda, Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri, Bordeaux midfielder Alou Diarra, and Roma defender Philippe Mexes.
As he continues to define the spine of his team, Blanc may choose to pick key players like Malouda and Karim Benzema for at least one of the friendlies, even though the players are clearly hoping for a bit of rest.
"It's been a good season even though we could have done more," said Benzema, who scored regularly for Madrid in the closing stages of the season. "Now other players will be able to get some playing time."
Among those hoping for a start will be Lorient striker Kevin Gameiro and Marseille forward Loic Remy. Yohan Cabaye may also be given a run in midfield.
Monday's match in Ukraine may be more open and suited to France's counterattacking style.
"We are more comfortable with teams who play to win," Malouda said.
However, veteran forwards Andriy Shevchenko and Andriy Voronin could cause problems for France's shaky defense.
The 34-year-old Shevchenko needs five more goals to reach 50 for his country, a milestone he hopes to reach before retiring after Euro 2012.