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:
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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
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!