Thursday, August 27, 2015

Deschamps' list for start of international friendlies...not much to see here

Les Bleus will head into the first international break with many questions looming. After a pathetic end to the last international season - getting badly outplayed by the Red Devils from Belgium as well as being hijacked away to Albania - France are not looking like they are anything but a welcoming host to next year's Euro. France and Deschamps are still haunted by the same issue they have been facing, for what feels like years now, a lack of both star power and a winning formula. Unfortunately for Les Bleus, time is not our their side and clearly there is not a whole lot of options for Deschamps.

So here is the list for next months games versus Portugal and Serbia - two massive challenges.


Les 23 Bleus retenus

Lloris, Mandanda, Ruffier
Varane, Debuchy, Evra, Koscielny, Mangala, Sagna, Trémoulinas, Zouma
Cabaye, Kondogbia, Matuidi, Pogba, Schneiderlin, Sissoko
Benzema, Fekir, Giroud, Griezmann, Martial, Valbuena.
 
The only new face is the Monaco striker - Martial. Feels like another candidate Deschamps wants to take a look at to bring some attacking talent to the French front line. His profile feels much like Lacazette - pacey forward who plays down the middle but can also slot out to the wings. Of course there is a glut of players who play the wide role: Griezmann, Valbuena, Fekir and even the likes of Sissoko can slot there. Reality is Les Bleus are still looking for a central striker that can truly carry the goal scoring load. Neither Benzema or Giroud have truly taken ownership of that role. 
The old man still sticking around
 
Otherwise the roster does not really surprise me, other than seeing Evra once again in the roster. It felt as if he was at the end of the road during the last World Cup...and not sure how he is going to be better two years later at the Euros. With other left backs such as Kurzawa waiting in the wings, why constantly go to an aging back who has lost his bite?
 
What to watch for - Which central defensive pairing does DD lean on? Varane - Kos? Will Zouma get some time, could he be paired with Varane? That could be a pairing for the long term. Does Griezmann lock down the left wing for himself? Other than Pogba and Matuidi in the midfield, who else gets their chance? Does Cabaye keep his role as the sentinel in front of the back 4?
 
Lots of questions and little time to answer them. Deschamps has a lot of work ahead of him and not much time. Not sure if he will lean on the 4-3-3 or maybe go back to a 4-2-3-1 to load up his midfield to stabilize the game. Keep an eye on the training sessions to see what falls out.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ouch...Les Bleus streak of qualification in serious jeopardy

After having to play in a qualifying group that included Spain, France had to also have a miraculous reversal after dropping a 0-2 playoff game away to Ukraine, to get into the World Cup in Brazil. Looks like the next round of qualifiers for the World Cup in 2018 in Russia will be even tougher for Les Bleus. Since France feel to the second pot they knew they risked drawing a big fish as head of group...which they were served by getting the Oranje of Holland. To make things even more tasty, the French will also have to face off against Zlatan's Sweden...toss in Bulgaria and you have some serious hurdles that France will have to overcome to get to Russia.

The group A teams:

Netherlands, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, Luxembourg

France's schedule:


6 septembre 2016: Biélorussie-France

7 octobre 2016: France-Bulgarie

10 octobre 2016: Pays-Bas-France

13 novembre 2016: France-Suède

25 mars 2017: Luxembourg-France

9 juin 2017: Suède-France

31 août 2017: France-Pays-Bas

3 septembre 2017: France-Luxembourg

7 octobre 2017: Bulgarie-France

10 octobre 2017: France-Biélorussie
 
The only positive aspect is that France get to face one of the weakest nations in the group first, get tested against Bulgaria before having to take on Holland. But there is very little else that is positive with this draw! It will be a tight race for head of the group, and second place will be a real dog fight. Luxembourg and Belarus will probably have no hope about sniffing qualification, but Belarus will act as spoiler. Bulgaria and France will most likely fight it out with whoever drops from the Holland - Sweden tandem for second place. Not a great group for France....Much will be expected from what happens next summer during the Euros. Can Les Bleus find their form? How will they fare being at home? And will any success...assuming they find some....carry over into the qualifiers? Lots of questions and lots of gaps that Deschamps must resolve not only for next summer but for beyond.
 
This is what you get when you under-perform for years...ugh. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Les Bleus get what they deserve...tough road ahead for qualifiers

No one should be surprised to see France being in the second pool for Russia 2018 World Cup qualifications. Anyone watching the last few months of this national side might even wonder why they were not dropped to the 3rd or 4th pool With home losses to Brazil and Belgium, the second one being an absolute fiasco and then ending the international season with a dreadful lose away to Albania, there is no surprise their ranking has dropped to 22nd in the FIFA rankings.

The pots:

Pot one: Germany, Belgium, Holland, Romania, England, Wales, Portugal, Spain, Croatia.
Pot two: Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Denmark, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Pot three: Poland, Ukraine, Scotland, Hungary, Sweden, Albania, Northern Ireland, Serbia, Greece.
Pot four: Turkey, Slovenia, Israel, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Bulgaria, Faroe Islands, Montenegro, Estonia.
Pot five: Cyprus, Latvia, Armenia, Finland, Belarus, Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Moldova.
Pot six: Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Georgia, Malta, San Marino, Andorra.

So Les Bleus could have Germany, Belgium, Holland, Portugal or Spain at the top of their group! They did qualify for the last World Cup with Spain also in their group. So it is by no means a death sentence.

The scariest draw for Les Bleus: Germany, Sweden, Turkey, Macedonia and Georgia.
The best draw for France: Wales, Northern Ireland, Faroe Islands, Cyprus and Andorra.

Regardless of the draw this qualification campaign will be a real test for this side. They are not looking very good a year away from hosting the Euros, but at least they will have home field and that by itself should at least get them out of the group and may past one knock out round. But this side is clearly still trying to define itself, who does it build around, where will the goals come from and who is the leader on the pitch? 2018 is a long ways away, but the reality is the preparation and groundwork starts now.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Can a 4-3 loss feel like a pseudo win? Les Diables Rouge almost give it away

Well how is it possible that you give up 4 goals, almost give up a fifth when Lukaku smashed a close shot off the post in the 62nd minute, and not feel completely dejected?? That is what happens when you also score 3 goals, of which two came in the last few minutes of the game...and where Courtois had to make a solid reflex save off a deflected France shot in injury time. Anyways....I have been remiss from posting but here goes the analysis.

The Good:
  • Les Diables Rouge - There was very little good from Les Bleus...but their northern neighbors were very good. Okay. Good until they forgot how to defend and made the last few minutes more tense that had to be. The Belgians have a talented and scary starting 11. It all starts with Chelsea star - Hazard. Unlike with his club team (thanks Jose) he has more freedom to roam for his national side. This freedom allows him to showcase his world class touch, shiftiness, creativity and pace. He is world class. But there is more talent than just Eden. With the likes of Bentenke and Lukaku up front, Fellaini, Vertongen and a world class keeper in Courtois there is some serious talent available for the Red Devils. With the pitbull - Nainggolan - patrolling the midfield there is some additional snarl on the field. The Belgians did not have their captain and sweeper - Kompany either. The youth system continues to produce some talent, the Anderlecht youngster - Dendoncker - coming on late to earn his first cap. Currently sitting in the second spot of the FIFA rankings, this side has every right to believe they should head to the Euros next summer as one of the favorites. The question will be - do they have the depth to win the tournament and can they play as favorites. But clearly they are a team to watch. 
  • Well that is about it for the good....okay okay...I will say the French substitutes of Payet, Fekir and Ntep were good. Well maybe not 100% good but I need to find something good for Les Bleus. The three Ligue 1 youngsters brought some pace and offensive creativity to a French
    Only bright lights of the night?
    side that appeared flat most of the game. I was especially impressed by the pace of Ntep. I am not sure if he will have a legitimate challenge to taking that starting slot, but he seems to offer a nice option as a game changing substitute, someone that can create a lot of problems for a tired defense late in a game. Fekir's work rate and creativity were also noticeable. He was rewarded for his efforts by potting his first international goal. Same goes for Payet. While I have never been the biggest fan of the OM player, he did show well today.
The Bad:
  • Ugh, not sure why, but France still struggles with a solid central defensive pairing. Individually and for their club, I like both Varane and Koscienly. But for some reason whey they put on the France shirt they seem to lose some brain cells. Kos gave up a penalty kick that felt like it was due to being lazy and out of position. While Varane seemed to be overwhelmed at times by the Belgian attack. They both have the talent...just not sure whey it does not get translated when they play for France.
  • Speaking of defense...once again the French outside backs were lacking in their crosses. My frustration with Sagna's crosses is well documented, but I was a bit shocked that Tremoulinas was just as bad. I did like the former Bordeaux fullback's pace and willingness to jump into the offensive end. But both outside backs kept pumping in crosses...that went nowhere. Ugh. I guess that is why the likes of Evra remain in the conversation.
The Ugly:
  • Sloppy play...I should have known from the start that the game was going to be ugly when France took the opening kick off and passed it to no one...no one really looked that engaged. There was very little in terms of linking up play or of any real sustained attack. Valbuena made some good runs and had some decent passes...but no one followed. Giroud looked lost alone and frankly at times uninterested. Cabaye showed some efforts but it appears that his lack of time for PSG is showing. Just ugly. All around. 
Well let's put this game behind us. France were dominated by a team that was not necessarily more talented but have two aspects France seem to be missing: 1)A world class player, Hazard for Belgium who for France? 2)A team that plays as a team. Deschamps still has a year to try and develop the latter, not sure the former is available. Lots of work ahead.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Oh Manchester United...

The following is a post from a guest blogger - Matthew "Ice" Rybak. Look for him to contribute to the Bean Town Frog. Unfortunately he is a Manchester United fan, but is semi intelligent so we will accept his contributions. Welcome aboard Matty Ice!

-->
Congrats to Chelsea for being the Floyd Mayweather of Soccer and Manchester Utd. Stumble once again. Transfer Rumors.

Congrats to Chelsea for being the most boring Champion ever. (Sorry Chelsea fans but you only deserve one sentence for the display of football you made me sit through this season.) If I am setting a precedent based off of my last statement, then Manchester United doesn’t even deserve a mention after their past two weeks performances. However Louis Van Gaal doesn’t deserve to get off that easy. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. LVG is insane, after two weeks of nothing being delivered from the midfield of Fellaini, Young, Mata and Herrera he went back to them again. And again the same result, dominant in possession but lacked that special imagination to break through the wall of defense that West Brom constructed. 

The start of the second half brought about the typical LVG substitutions of Di Maria and
Mad Dutchman??
Falcao (which lead to disjointed play and more frustration from the home crowd). However Louis tried to shake things up by dropping Robin Van Persie into a central midfield position. This decision infuriated the striker whose body language went from poor to shit and left Rooney running around aimlessly with no true position. This decision just makes you scratch your head especially since RVP has been on the bench for the past month with an injury. Then LVG choose him for the PK, nothing about RVP’s play warranted that decision. Everyone in the building knew Robin wanted nothing to do with that free kick. He steps up with the chance to tie the game and make up for all his blown chances earlier in the game but except he floats a duck to the right side of the goal for a relatively easy stop from the goalkeeper. It is time for Louis Van Gaal to pivot his soccer philosophy before Manchester Utd finds themselves on the outside of the top 4. 

LVG seems to have the infatuation level with his system that a 13 year old girl does with Justin Beiber. No matter how many DUI’s or arrests that clown has, that 13 year old will always love him. It seems about two months ago LVG struck gold with the combination of Mata Herrera and Young but now the three of them produce nothing more than aluminum. Manchester United experienced a similar issue earlier in the season when they were playing with two wing backs and after multiple dismal performances he reluctantly decided to switch to a four man back. Hopefully LVG can see the light again and make another brilliant tactical change to secure that coveted Champions League birth. Transfer Rumors: Everyone to United, De Gea to Madrid.

Monday, March 30, 2015

You win some, you lose some - Les Bleus at the international break

I must admit I was not able to watch both the France v Brazil and France v Denmark matches in their entirety. This work thing can get in the way. So I would not do a full good-bad-ugly review of both matches. My apologies. But here are some take-aways from what I saw from both matches. 

  • Les Bleus have some interesting players to watch for the next year. Fekir is the first that comes to mind. Coming on as a substitute for both matches he showed some glimpses of why he is such an exciting player. His pace and creativity were both on display during his game time. He seems as comfortable on the right as on the left side, something that is important for DD. It will be interesting to see how he continues to play for Lyon this season and what happens during the summer transfer window. My home would be he stays with OL, since at times a move to a bigger club and league can cause a drop off in a players game. Not the ideal situation just before a major tournament. Speaking of OL, Fekir's teammate - Lacazette celebrated his first international goal versus Denmark. He could have very well latched on to a second in that game when he split the Danish defense, unfortunately he missed his touch. But he did show an ability to work well playing wide with Giroud as the lone striker. Again another option to watch for DD as he develops his roster. As much as this pains me, I think Payet showed me something as well. It is still hard for me to admit he is a full blown international, but he brought some decent game management skills to the table against Denmark, controlling the pace of play and proving dangerous with his crosses etc. 
  • Les Bleus also have some major question marks. Issues remain, issues that been haunting Les Bleus for the past few seasons. Goal scoring remains elusive. Benzema being the primary culprit for this. What sticks out was his missed volley against Brazil....from close. Granted this past weekend in my old man soccer league I blasted a similar ball into the proverbial row ZZ, but I am not an international level player! I still feel as if Benzema has failed to live up to what is suppose to be bags of talent. France really has yet to replace the likes of Henry and Trezeguet. The right side...yes it is a broken record. But this continues to haunt Les Bleus. It will be interesting to see if and how the likes of Fekir might become a solution to this problem. Speaking of the right side, part of the issue is also the right backs and by some extent the left backs are also in question. I am not sure why the likes of Sagna and Evra are still getting time. Evra to me is not the long term, and by long term I mean the Euros,  solution for left back. With the likes of Tremoulinas and Kurzawa as more likely long term options why is DD insistent on continuing to select Mr Evra? On the right side, hopefully a healthy return of Debuchy will stabilize the position.
  • Who will be the superstar player? I am not asking for the next Zidane or Platini...but France need to find their next star player. Ribery and Henry filled those roles post Zidane. But who is the next player? It does not have to be a superstar offensive player. Pogba appears to be the most likely candidate to fill the role. His box-to-box midfielder can put his stamp on any game he plays in. His form for Juventus has made him one of the most desirable assets in the game. Question remains can he translate this for the national team? If it is not Pogba, not sure where this comes from.
France leave these two games with some positives to build on and some questions that continue to linger. Deschamps does have over a year to figure it out, but that year will go by quickly. Much work to be done, but there are enough positives to have some high expectations for next year's tournament on home soil.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Karim captain!

With the injury to Lloris, the question became who would wear the captain's arm band. Interesting that a player who has worn the arm band and for more than one match is in the starting line up - Evra. Of course he was the captain during the disaster that was the South African World Cup. DD decided to choose the Real Madrid striker - Benzema to wear the arm band for this match.

I didn't ask for any gov't identification...
I understand why you could not give it back to Evra. But I am not sure I would have picked Benzema evidence to prove this...and they were acquitted. Hey I am not naive enough to think these boys are all choir boys, nor do I expect them to be. But couple this with some of Karim's sometimes on field issues - aka lack of production. Remember his year long goalless drought??? And I don't see the ideal model for a captain. Granted it is only for this match, or maybe the next one as well. But would have rather seen Matuidi carrying the arm band - maybe even Varane who profiles as the long term French captain.
either. Not when you have other choices, Matuidi being the one that comes to mind. Benzema does have some baggage from his off the field activities...remember the under aged lady of the night? It was never in question that Benzema and Ribery had purchased Ms Dehar's services, but whether or not they were aware of her age. The courts did not find enough

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

No surpise - DD leaning back on his 4-3-3

Heading into the friendly tomorrow against Brazil, word out of Clairefontaine is that Deschamps will roll out the formation we have grown accustomed to seeing France play - the 4-3-3. Makes sense with the French strength being in that middle three. Even with their engine room midfielder, Pogba, being out for the match, Les Bleus have plenty of talent and depth at that position.

The possible line up -

Mandanda - Sagna, Varane, Sakho, Evra - Sissoko, Schneiderlin, Matuidi - Valbuena, Griezmann, Benzema

No surprise in goal, with Lloris having to drop out of the squad after picking up a knock playing for Tottenham. The outside backs are back to the future, not sure I expect to see these two being the pillars for the Euro campaign. But we shall see. As for the center back pairing, looks like Sakho's club form has put him back in the good graces of the manager. I will be surprised if Kos doesn't get some time this game or next. Varane seems to be the constant in that central defensive pairing, who partners with him remains in flux.

The midfield trident shows the depth DD has at his disposal. Without Pogba, he can still turn to the
Is that DD calling me??
likes of Schneiderlin and Sissoko. Matuidi is a regular. Question becomes - will Cabaye ever regain his position? His main issue is that for his club - PSG - he is stuck behind a number of talented midfielders. Maybe he should have stayed in northern England! Up front, no surprise either. With Griezmann seeming to cement his role out on the left side of the formation, Benzema as the lone striker and Valbuena. The main issue, once again, will be to see how France's right plays. Yes Valbuena should be "slotted" to play in that right corridor. But we all know he has license to drift and often does. Raises a question - does Menez have a role on the national team? Anyone noticed his form in Italy? He has been on a tear for Milan AC. Could be something to keep in mind.

Brazil is always a tough opponent, don't let their last two World Cup games lull you into complacency. I expect a balanced and cautious game from both sides. I am a little nervous about France's outside backs, I am not sure they can keep the Brazilian wingers and fullbacks in check. There will be a lot expected of the midfield trident to slow down Neymar et al.

I look for a 2-2 draw. Benzema with a brace.

Allez les Bleus
There was an error in this gadget