Friday, June 23, 2006

France - Togo: Last Hurrah or First Step Back?

Will we see many (at least 2) of Henry celebrating today? As we enter the last day of the first round of the World Cup, Les Bleus once again find themselves in a difficult situation. 4 years ago after scoring no goals in the first two games, including a loss to Senegal the French had to beat the Danes by 2 goals to go through. We all know what happened...losing 2-0 and crashing out of the world cup.

This year the situation is similar: France must win by 2 goals to guarantee a place in the next round. If they only win by 1 goal they will need much help from the Swiss - Korea game. And they must do all this without Zidane....then again that might be a blessing. France will line with with two strikers (what a novel idea) in a traditional 4-4-2 line up. Without the aged Zidane they have Malouda and Ribery on the wings, with Makelele and Vieira in the middle. I think this could be a strong offensive team. With two stikers up front, Trezeguet and Henry, Togo will have to defend deeper and cannot only focus on Henry. Ribery and Malouda have the legs that the old gaurd - Wiltord and Zidane, no longer enjoy. They can run at the defense forcing errors and giving the stikers chances. The defense stays the same, which has been fairly solid so far. The telling sign will be Sagnol and Silvestre, will they have the space and time to make runs in support of the offense?

I think this game will be much harder than some believe, Togo has been fraught with issues since qualifying, but they played Korea tough (Really deserved a point) and gave up a very late goal to the Swiss otherwise were hanging in that game until the end. In addition, Togo has the former colonist motivation to beat their old colonizer!

Prognostic: France 4 - Togo 1 (Togo scores early but France wakes up, Trezeguet scores 2, Henry 1, and Ribery 1)

South Korea 2 - Switzerland 2

France play Ukraine
Switzerland play Spain

Of course I would not be surpised to see France struggle, score a late goal and then push for the second only to see Togo counter attack, to level the game at 1 seeing France crash out of another world cup....

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