'EURO starts now' for Toulalan
With France having packed up and left their training camp in Tignes on Friday afternoon, midfielder Jérémy Toulalan can hardly wait for the action to get started at UEFA EURO 2008™.
The 24-year-old Olympique Lyonnais anchorman has made great strides in recent months and now finds himself close behind Les Bleus captain Patrick Vieira and Chelsea FC veteran Claude Makelele in the France pecking order. Like Makelele a product of the FC Nantes Atlantique academy, he is even set to start if coach Raymond Domenech opts for a 4-3-2-1 approach. "It always takes me time to install myself in any team," said Toulalan. "It has been the same in Lyon, but I really feel comfortable now."
Sometimes compared to another illustrious Nantes graduate, Didier Deschamps, the two-time French champion performed well with both club and country last term, surviving Wednesday's cull of seven players as Domenech released a finalised list of 23 men. That put him ahead of AC Milan midfielder Mathieu Flamini and Alou Diarra of FC Girondins de Bordeaux in the coach's estimations. "Even if I was happy to stay, it was a tough moment," said Toulalan, who has made eleven appearances for his country. "We were all sad for hours but we also admitted that EURO starts from this point'."
The next step comes this evening in Toulouse, with the second of three warm-up games pitting France against Paraguay – a nation they have not met since Laurent Blanc's famous golden-goal winner in their Round of 16 tie at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. "We're all eager to start the competition but we still need to raise our standards technically and physically," added Toulalan, with one eye on France's 9 June opener with Group C rivals Romania in Zurich. Having impressed with his pace and running in Tuesday's 2-0 win over Ecuador, Toulalan will be relishing another chance to show what he can do and Patrick Vieira's suspected thigh injury could give him a chance against Paraguay.