Monday, March 28, 2005

World Cup Qualifiers....what a missed opportunity

I had the joy, well at least the ability, to watch my "patrie" playing this weekend as France played Switzerland in a world cup qualifier at Stade de France. After ending their domestic season with ZERO victories (zero loses as well) the French look like a far cry from the team that dominated international football from 1998 - 2000. Yet when I look at the players Domenech can select from and I still scratch my head as to why France cannot find its rythm.

Now, when you lose a player of Zidane's caliber there is no doubt that you will struggle to redefine yourself. But it is not the same as after the last great French team of the 1980s, the one that won the Euro in 1984, and made it to the world cup semi finals in 1982 and 1986 both times losing heartbreakers to our nemisis the RFA. That French team lost the likes of Platini, Giresse, Bossis, Battiston, Tresor, Rocheteau, Tigana, to name a few. It took a while for the French to rebuild themselves and floundered for years, even thought they had world class players such as Cantona and Papin to rebuild around. They did have a an amazing undefeated qualifying run to get to the European Cup in Sweden (beating Spain twice), only to see their run end in the group stage. And how can we forget France's melt down prior to World Cup USA, where only needing a draw against Bulgaria and Israel both at Paris, the French lost both (seeing Bulgaria's run in the World Cup makes that lose less painful, but Isreal?). Not until a young son of Algerian immigrants emerge did France rise to the top of the football food chain. But it was not simply Zidane that made France a power house, it was the development and meshing of players such as Desailly, Blanc, Deschamps, Thuram, Lizarazu, Barthez, Petit, Djorkaef that gave the French the complete "team" to fill their trophy case. So what does that mean for this generation of players and the next great French team? Are the current versions of Les Bleus trying to find themselves?

With world class players such as Henry, Trezeguet, Gallas, and Viera to name a few, how can a team be held to 3 home draws against the likes of Israel, Ireland, and Switzerland? The FFF also drew 1-1 with perinnial power house Bosnia during this time frame as well....the former World and European champion will need to define themselves, and do so quickly. They need to figure out what type of formation they want to run. They have not defined who their "number 10" will be or will they leverage two holding midfielders and then attack down the wings with players like Guily and Wiltord, and then look to Trezeguet in front of the net and allow Henry to adlib? And who will step up to control the defense? They have solid defenders both at the midfield level as well as on the defensive back, but they have yet to find the Desailly - Blanc bloc, the one that commands the back. Boumsong could be the one to build on, but remains raw. And where is Mexes? I thought a Boumsong - Mexes axe with Gallas/Sagnol on the wings, would be a solid back 4.

Having said that, the French have the talent to deserve their #2 world ranking, but they still lack the cohesion and system...they have time but time is fleating.

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