Les Bleus had not won a final tournament match since their 2006 FIFA World Cup semi-final success against Portugal, and having been held to a draw by England in their opening fixture, there was a danger of doubts creeping in. However, goals from Jérémy Ménez and Yohan Cabaye – as well as a solid defensive display – brought the eight-match winless run to an end on Friday.
Blanc, whose team are now undefeated in 23 matches, expressed satisfaction, saying: “Every victory is good for confidence, both on a collective and an individual level. We know just how hard it is to win a match at a major tournament, so the fact we played well and looked secure at the back is a good thing. It’ll give us courage and a lot of confidence.”
The result propelled the two-time European champions to the top of Group D, ahead of second-placed England on goal difference and a point clear of the co-hosts. A draw in Kyiv on Tuesday against already-eliminated Sweden would be enough to reach the quarter-finals, yet Blanc insists he is not thinking about the various permutations. “I’m not making any calculations,” he stressed.
“We still need something from the third game,” the UEFA EURO 2000 winner continued. “We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. Let’s stay humble. We played well yesterday and we beat Ukraine. That’s good, but it won’t change the way we prepare for the Sweden match.”
Blanc was reluctant to dwell on individuals after what he called “a victory for the collective”, although the 46-year-old did touch briefly on Ménez’s eye-catching performance. “Scoring will do Jérémy good,” Blanc enthused. “He was aware of the fact he’d missed a few. Up until now, we’d been saying to him: ‘You’re playing well and creating chances; soon you’ll have to start putting them away.’ That’s what he’s started doing.”
The former FC Girondins de Bordeaux coach confirmed he will name his strongest lineup against Erik Hamrén’s side, and hopes to have Cabaye available despite the Newcastle United FC midfielder going off against Ukraine with a minor injury. “Yohan felt some pain in his thigh in Thursday’s training session,” Blanc explained. “As he’s an intelligent boy, he didn’t want to take any risks by playing 90 minutes. I’m not worried, but you always need to be careful with muscle strains.”