France sees Germany as good preparation for Spain

JEROME PUGMIRE AP Sports Writer Published:

PARIS (AP) -- For France coach Didier Deschamps, Wednesday's friendly against Germany is just the kind of tough test his side needs to be ready for next month's World Cup qualifier against Spain.

For an improving France team, it is also the opportunity to show fans that the team has become genuinely competitive again following a qualifying draw at Spain and a win at European Championship runner-up Italy.

"It's a prestigious game against a very good German side," Deschamps said. "It helps us to prepare with a view to the two qualifiers awaiting us at the end of March against Georgia and Spain."

The expectation level has risen among French fans following a mediocre showing at Euro 2012, as has the confidence within the team.

"The optimism is there, now everyone is awaiting confirmation," Deschamps said. "The squad is coming together. We have a very long road ahead but good results are always welcome. Of course it's a friendly, but it's a chance to build on the good things we've been doing recently."

Germany coach Joachim Loew said France is on the way to getting back to its competitive best.

"It will be a difficult test, because France has started playing the way it used to again," Loew said Tuesday through a translator. "They've really had good performances recently."

Loew is particularly wary of the threat posed by winger Franck Ribery, who has been in fine form for Bayern Munich this season and is set to make his 71st international appearance.

"He's got incredible speed, he's one of the best players in the world," Loew said. "Whether it's his speed, his ability one-on-one, or his passes, we have to be careful of him. He's a danger for every team he plays against."

Such is the strength in depth of German football that, even with key players missing through injury, Loew's side is expected by Deschamps to push his players all the way at Stade de France.

"They've got so many good players that they're still a competitive team. Loew has brought through some good young players," Deschamps said. "They play very good football with an attack-minded approach. They're very experienced because most of them have played in the last two international campaigns and they have players who are used to the Champions League, so there's a lot of experience there."

Striker Miroslav Klose sustained a partially torn outer ligament in his right knee during Lazio's Serie A loss at Genoa on Sunday, meaning he will miss out on the chance to equal Gerd Mueller's national record of 68 international goals. Borussia Dortmund players Mario Goetze (viral infection) and Marco Reus (groin strain) are also out, as is Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger with an ankle injury.

"Despite all the players we're missing, we still have a good squad," Loew said.

Although injuries have forced Loew's hand somewhat, he took the decision himself to rest first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and replace him with former No. 1 Rene Adler -- who will make his comeback after more than two years out.

"It's an important game for us. I would have liked to play," Neuer said. "I'm happy to sit on the bench, but at the right time."

A German side has not beaten France since 1987, when Rudi Voeller scored both goals in a 2-1 win for West Germany, with Eric Cantona scoring for the visitors. Unified Germany's last win in France was in March 1935 and it beat France again two years later.

While Adler will return for Germany, France will welcome back right back Bacary Sagna, who has recently returned to form with Arsenal after a difficult recovery from a broken leg. Sagna made the last of his 32 national team appearances in a 0-0 draw against Romania in a Euro 2012 qualifier in September 2011.

France midfielder Moussa Sissoko is also challenging for a starting place in central midfield following his two-goal performance in Newcastle's 3-2 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

Both France and Germany are experiencing somewhat of a title drought, with France's last title coming at Euro 2000 and Germany last winning a tournament four years earlier at the European Championship.

However, Germany has been far more consistent than France, reaching the semifinals of the last four major tournaments.

"We're currently No. 2 in the world rankings, even if we haven't had the best performances in recent tournaments because Spain has been the best," Loew said. "I'm proud of the progress we've made. This team is young and will continue to get even better."