Vieira back in training as Les Bleus bid to rediscover form

PATRICK VIEIRA returned to training with the rest of the France squad yesterday as he steps up his bid to be fit for Euro 2008.

The Les Bleus captain was last week ruled out of his team’s opening Group C match, against Romania on Monday, because of a thigh injury.

Vieira was told to prove his fitness by Sunday if he was to retain his place in the France squad, with Mathieu Flamini called up to train with the group as a precaution. But Vieira participated in his first training session of the week yesterday and is making good progress, according to France coach Raymond Domenech.

“Pat ran [yesterday],” Domenech said. “It’s okay, things are progressing as we hope. He is progressing little by little so he can be as good as possible on June 8 — the time we have to make a decision.”

The French have been unconvincing in their warm-up games but veteran defender Lilian Thuram said he believed they could shine at Euro 2008.

“The summary of our three (warm-up) matches is that we don’t have many answers,” defender Thuram admitted.

“We have our doubts but when we are in that situation it usually makes us play better,” added Thuram.

A mixture of seasoned warriors and exciting newcomers, France are a tough proposition, at least on paper, but will be tested in a group also featuring world champions Italy and the Netherlands. They did not concede a goal in their three matches prior to the tournament but did not score many either, despite clever moves from Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Thierry Henry.

“We put up solid performances but we must show more of a killer instinct in front of goal,” Henry said after winning his 100th cap against Colombia.

Domenech is expected to field a 4-4-2 formation with Jeremy Toulalan taking up Vieira’s role as a defensive midfielder and Henry and Benzema paired up front.

Another question occupying France’s fans is whether the 20-year-old Benzema — this season’s revelation with 20 Ligue 1 goals for champions Lyon — can live up to huge expectations on the big stage.

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