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France hosts US in soccer exhibition
PARIS (AP) - France's next generation of soccer players could get their chance Friday when the national team faces the United States in an exhibition.
The French have already qualified for next year's European Championship, so France coach Laurent Blanc may give some inexperienced players a chance to shine against the Americans.
"The idea is to give some playing time to either young or uncapped players who are unproven at the international level," Blanc said. "If the newcomers are to get some playing time, I think they will get it against the United States. And if they perform satisfactorily, they may play against Belgium."
France hosts Belgium next Tuesday, while the United States travels to Slovenia.
Jurgen Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley as the U.S. coach in July and has been trying to implement a more-attacking style.
"We have started to build a foundation on our playing style, and every time we are together the team gets a more precise picture of how I want to see things done on the field," Klinsmann said. "We want to continue to progress so we are able to challenge teams like France, who have earned their place as one of the top 15 teams in the world."
Valencia fullback Jeremy Mathieu, Arsenal center back Laurent Koscielny, Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons and Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud are all possible candidates to make their international debuts on Friday.
"I intend to take my chance," said Giroud, the top scorer in the French league. "There will be of course some pressure, but hopefully some good pressure, not the one that will inhibit me and prevent me from playing at my best."
Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye has made only eight international appearances and was also aware of the importance of those friendlies.
"It will be important to optimize every minute that we will spend on the pitch so that we score points and do anything to be in the squad for the European Championship," Cabaye said.
France has played the United States only twice, winning 6-0 in East Rutherford, N.J., in May 1979, and 3-0 in Paris five months later.
But much has changed since then. The Americans reached the second round at last year's World Cup while France was eliminated in the group stage following a player strike.
"It's a team which is improving and which is very motivated to get a good result against us," France winger Florent Malouda said, "because that would give them a bit more value and recognition on the international stage."
France, which is unbeaten in its last 15 matches, is 15th in the FIFA world rankings, while the United States has slipped to 34th.
"There's still this desire to stretch this unbeaten run that helps us add up a lot of confidence," France midfielder Alou Diarra said.
In his first coaching job, Klinsmann led Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup. But so far, the Americans have lost three matches and earned a draw and a victory under Klinsmann, who is experimenting with players and formations before the start of World Cup qualifying in June.
"We get to play the former world champions in a wonderful stadium that hosted the World Cup final, so it's a great honor and we are certainly looking forward to it," U.S. defender Clarence Goodson said.
The United States is going through a rebuilding phase. Of the 21 players who made the squad for the November friendlies, six are young enough to be eligible for the Under-23 team and only 11 were at the World Cup in South Africa.
German-born defender Alfredo Morales could make his national team debut for the Americans.
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