Saturday, March 24, 2007

La Petite Victoire

Phewww, that was not pretty. France leave the Baltics exhaling a bit easier after an ugly 1-0 victory on an individual action from Anelka. Many of our fears came true the first 45 minutes -
a goat ranch of a pitch, a Lithuania team packing the back, no French linking midfield, poor defending on dead balls, and a very isolated French striker. The essential was accomplished, France keep pace with Scotland and gain the full 3 points from this trap game. My thought:

The Good:
  • Anelka demonstrated his quality as a lone striker. He was able to take on defenders, make deep runs, flick on, and overall pressure the defenders. Without much support, his efforts at times were for naught. The goal was an absolute pure striker goal: he kept off three defenders as he cut dangerously across the face of the 18 yard box, he unleashed a powerful shot, which became a volley due to the divots in the pitch. But it was really the only way I think the French could score without any of their creative midfielders. Anelka's talent have never been in question, sometimes I wonder how things might have been had his attitude been more in line with his ability. However, I think as long as he keeps his head on straight he will be a valuable asset for Les Bleus, and hopefully a major force at Euro 2008.
  • Diarra, the mini Makelele grew stronger as the match wore on. He did attempt some rather audacious shots from far out, maybe trying a little to hard. But overall I felt he demonstrated his worth, granted against one of the third tier soccer nations. I think his partnering with Toulalan bodes well for the future of the holding responsibilities for the French national team.
  • The Lithuanians - Much credit needs to be given to the Baltic team. They played hard and tactically very intelligently the entire match. They may have deserved a draw, with a very dangerous attempt end of the first half that only the emergency slide tackle from Sagnol saving a possible French embarrassment. They were dangerous on every dead ball situation, and their long throw ins were a major threat the entire match.
The Bad:
  • Domenech's Tactics: As I had written in the run up to the game, I was very concerned about the defensive posture Domenech had decided to line up for the match. With three holding midfielders it was going to be very difficult for the strickers to gain the support needed. Emmanuel Petit and Didier Roustan were both commenting on this line up on the TV5 broadcast, they mentioned the fact that in 1998 Jacquet had a similar line up - Deschamps, Petit and Karembeau in the midfield, all three holding midfielders. The differences are they had been playing that style for a few years, they were more experienced players (Diara with his first cap, Toulalan his second!), the defense was more experienced in this style, and finally they had one Zidane at the peak of his ability pulling the strings....the current team does not have the offensive talent to go with such a format. I think the French manager was more nervous about losing 1-0 than he was interested in winning. Now I cannot criticise the result, but I can call into question the philosophy.
  • Govou: I have never been a huge fan of the Lyon winger. He shows some flashes, but he is not a consistent enough goal scorer to be given the role of primary attacker. His recent form with Lyon also points to a player "searching" for his game. The switch with Cisse gave the French a much more fluid and dangerous play, it allowed Anelka to drop back a bit and force the defense to open up a bit more with the fear of Cisse's pace, something Govou cannot offer.
The Ugly:
  • The Pitch: Like Roustan said, it was a Potatoe Farm. It is always difficult for smaller Associations to maintain high level pitches, especially where the weather is not ideal. But it also is in the best interest of the Lithuanias to maintain such a slow and irregular pitch.
Overall the essential was accomplished, 3 points. France must now focus on the next games in June when Ukraine will be on the menu. Hopefully they will have a healthy Vieira, Saha, Henry and Ribery. The upcoming friendly with Austria should be an experimental time for Domenech. I would like to see a few things:

  • Get Mexes and Gallas on the pitch together, Thuram is not going to play forever (and he did play well against Lithuania). Mexes, and Escude, appear to be the future central pairing for Les Bleus.
  • Sit Makelele and play Diarra and Toulalan again together.
  • Get Nasri in there to see what he can do.
  • Play Diaby with Nasri, could be an interesting pairing for the future
  • Pair up Cisse and Anelka
Here is the line up I would throw out there -

Landreau - Sagnol, Mexes, Gallas, Abidal - Diarra, Toulalan - Diaby, Nasri - Cisse, Anelka

These are the players that will play a role in the Euro 2008, and more importantly World Cup qualifying for 2010, get them out there!


Anonymous said...

Curious why Landreau and not Coupet? Preparing for the post-Coupet era?

I found it odd that even with the defensive nature of the lineup, the defense didn't perform all that well. How many times did I want to shout at my computer, "Why is nobody ON that guy?!?!" I think we were extremely lucky that none of the Lithuanian shots were accurate.

Makelele didn't really register for me yesterday the way he usually does, so I'm agreeing with you about Diarra and Toulalan. Both started a little rough but seemed to gain confidence through the game and had great second halves.

I also thought Malouda earned a return ticket, especially in the second half. I still think I like him better in left midfield, though.

And I'm really wanting to see Benzema play. If I were Domenech, I'd start Benzema with Anelka on Wednesday. Cisse didn't really register with me yesterday for the time he was on. (Perhaps because I was too stressed by how close Lithuania kept coming to scoring and couldn't focus on the rest of the field.) Although I do agree 100% that he was an improvement over Govou.

A Lithanian commenter on my blog was saying that we had so many (inaccurate) shots on goal in a short period of time that Lithuania was lulled into a false sense of security and didn't see the Anelka goal coming. That feels accurate to me. I didn't see the Anelka goal coming either and was kind of shocked that it went in. It was a beauty, though, wasn't it? LOVE Anelka.

Not a great game, but a great three points. I'm still striking out on finding a way to watch France-Austria anywhere. Have you had better luck? The fff website appears to be offering it in the US, post-match. I may give that a try. (I had no luck getting their site to work for France-Argentina, but they graciously refunded my money and sent the problem to tech support.)

Yesterday really felt like a transition day. The team felt half-formed, but I ended feeling optimistic for the future.


GFC said...

Good comments, the reason I suggest Landreau is to get him some more action, in addition Lyon has a coupe de Ligue game coming up. Sitting Coupet might get him some brownie points with Houllier, something he could use. Another reason why I think Benzema will not play too much, then again when does Domenech do anything that will assist the club managers!

As for the game on Wednesday, I too am still searching for a viewing option. I have a feeling I will have to settle for watching/reading about it after the fact!

Laurie said...

If you're interested, I just found a PPV site offering the game, either live or delayed. Details on my blog.

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