France coach hints at tactical revolution

By Patrick Vignal

TIGNES, France (Reuters) - The 400 or so France fans who watched their team train at their French Alps camp on a gorgeous day on Monday might have witnessed a small revolution.

Coach Raymond Domenech, preparing the team for the June 11-July 11 World Cup, fielded what looked like a starting lineup and there was a surprise in it.

For the first time in years, Domenech, who has faced criticism for his cautious tactics, went for a 4-3-3 formation instead of his preferred, more defensive 4-2-3-1 system.

In other words, the coach played just one defensive midfielder rather than the usual two, suggesting France might go for a bolder style on the pitches of South Africa.

In their penultimate training session before playing Costa Rica in the first of three warm-up games on Wednesday in Lens, France played Jeremy Toulalan in front of their traditional back four of Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Eric Abidal and Patrice Evra.

There was a question mark over the fitness of Gallas, who has been sidelined by a left calf muscle injury, but he has looked in great shape in training over the last few days and looks almost certain to play at the World Cup.

Yoann Gourcuff and Florent Malouda, playing in more defensive roles that they are used to, completed the midfield trio with Andre-Pierre Gignac, Thierry Henry and Franck Ribery up front.

The change made sense since holding midfielder Lassana Diarra was ruled out of the World Cup by illness on Saturday.

The crowd liked what they saw, warmly applauding the players after the session, some even shouting "Domenech for President."

Domenech, wearing sunglasses and looking relaxed with his tracksuit jacket flung loosely over his shoulder, smiled at them. He even let one fan get near the team and have the time of his life, kicking the ball surrounded by a group of amused players.

The former world and European champions made an early exit from Euro 2008 and have frustrated their fans since. They will face hosts South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay in Group A at the World Cup

(Editing by Alison Wildey)