Ribery hoping to finally shine for France

AFP, Saturday 2 Jun 2012

Franck Ribery will have an integral part to play for France at Euro 2012, as "Les Bleus" seek to erase the painful memories of an inept display at the last World Cup in South Africa

Franck Ribery


This past season saw 29-year-old Ribery enjoy his best campaign since joining Bayern Munich from Marseille in 2007 but the winger has struggled desperately to replicate his club form on the international stage.

Ribery scored his first goal in over three years for France in Sunday's unconvincing 3-2 friendly win over Iceland, saying afterwards that ending that drought had liberated him.

"It's been three years since I've scored for France. It was becoming difficult to have to justify myself, people were asking questons," he said.

"Yesterday I was really liberated, very happy, very satisfied. But that doesn't surprise me because what I did... I've done for an entire year with Bayern and couldn't manage to reproduce it with France. I don't know why.

"I hope that this time I'm back on track again."

Part of the problem appears to be that Ribery feels unloved in France, with his reputation not helped by claims from a prostitute in 2010 that he and at least two other French players had slept with her while she was underage.

"Recently with the France team I haven't been relaxed, able to let go, always being criticised," said Ribery, who was nevertheless cheered when he replaced Yoann Gourcuff, who was booed off the pitch, in the 75th minute of Sunday's match.

"There comes a time when you begin to ask yourself what you should do. It's been a long time since my name has rung out in a French stadium.

"I hope that this is the trigger. When the public calls out my name, that gives me even more confidence to try things, to score, to dribble. These are things that I'd lost. I'm loved at Bayern."

The former Marseille man made his international debut in May 2006, aged 23, and has experienced extreme highs and lows during his time with Les Bleus.

Ribery started six of seven matches at the 2006 World Cup in Germany as France made it all the way to the final before losing to Italy on penalties.

He was also part of Raymond Domenech's ill-fated squads at Euro 2008 and South Africa 2010, where France finished bottom of their group on both occasions.

Despite a string on impressive performances at club level in 2011-12 -- Ribery scored 17 goals and provided 15 assists -- the French international came away empty-handed this season.

First, Bayern saw Borussia Dortmund win the Bundesliga, then thump them 5-2 in the German Cup final before Chelsea delivered the final blow, beating them in the Champions League finale at their own Allianz Arena in Munich.

Ribery said the Champions League defeat was difficult to bear but added: "It's better now. It was difficult for three or four days because it was a mad scenario. We had a perfect match, we were at home, we had chances and we didn't score.

"It's a pity, we deserved this title," Ribery admitted.

Now he said his focus is on Euro 2012, where he is likely to form a front three attack for France alongside Manchester City's Samir Nasri and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter: @AO Sports)

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