First the list:
Gardiens : Grégory Coupet (Lyon), Mickaël Landreau (Paris-SG), Sebastien Frey (Fiorentina)
Défenseurs : Eric Abidal (Lyon), François Clerc (Lyon), Julien Escudé (FC Séville), William Gallas (Arsenal), Bakary Sagna (Auxerre), Sébastien Squillaci (Lyon), Lilian Thuram (FC Barcelone)
Milieux : Abou Diaby (Arsenal), Alou Diarra (Lyon), Lassana Diarra (Chelsea), Claude Makelele (Chelsea), Florent Malouda (Lyon), Samir Nasri (Marseille), Franck Ribéry (Marseille), Jérémy Toulalan (Lyon)
Attaquants : Nicolas Anelka (Bolton), Karim Benzema (Lyon), Jimmy Briand (Rennes), Djibril Cissé (Marseille), Sidney Govou (Lyon)
- Glad to see the youngsters Nasri and Benzema. They played well enough in their lest friendly against Austria to warrant another look. Nasri, from all indications, has the potential to become the next #10 for Les Bleus. While I am far from anointing him as the replacement for Zidane and Platini, he has shown enough talent and sang froid to be viewed as a player that can pull the strings in the midfield. Benzema, is a young talent (19 years old) at striker. He has shown flashes of brilliance with Lyon and score on his first Senior call up with France. He is not at the same level as Henry and Trezeguet were when they played for France in 1998 as a pair of 20 year olds at the World Cup, but the experience will help him reach for that level.
- Very interesting to see 2 more youngsters brought into the squad - Briand and Sagna. Briand has been playing very well for one of Frances' surprise domestic squad - Stade Rennaise. He is a top 20 goal scorer with 9 goals in league play, and had finished the season on a strong note. He brings pace to the front line. Sagna is an interesting call up. I would attribute this to a combination of need and good timing. Sagna was voted one of Ligue 1s best lateral defender by his peers for the season, a great accolade for the young Auxerrois. In addition, with the injuries to Sagnol and the apparent cold shoulder to Chimbonda (as well as the Tottenham player not having the best end of season) opened the door for the young defender. I think the fact the second game will be played at Auxerre played a role in calling him up for these series of games.
- Gouvou, again interesting to see the Lyon player selected once again. He has played well this season for Lyon but not outstanding play. I have never been overly impressed by him but for some reason Domenech sees something I do not. I also think the brace he scored against Italy in Euro Qualifiers gives him a prolonged term with the senior squad. But why not look at a player such Peguy Luyindula? Both players made their way into the French squad around the same time, Peguy has dipped in form but this past season he has seen his talent and star re-emerge. He has been one of the only shining lights for PSG. And statistically done better than Gouvou - 3 goals vs 1 goal. 1 goal every 314 minutes vs 1 goal every 1790 minutes....
- The non-retained players. Once again Trezeguet has been left of the senior squad. He has been scoring goals for the Old Lady but because he is in Serie B has not been considered by the French manager.....but why was he called upon for the Argentina match? I realize that Trezeguet has been cold for Les Bleus, but like all strikers they go through hot and cold spells and you need to keep feeding the player to get him back on track. His partnership with Anelka (granted against the Faroe Islands) appeared to be promising. With the selected strikers Domenech does not have a true poacher...or really any striker that can dominate in the air, two areas of Trezeguet's strength. I fear that his strike force is talented, it is young and thin on experience. And Cisse has not be lighting it up for the French in a while either! Another interesting exclusion is Mexes. He has been a regular starter for AS Roma this season and has shown why Thuram has stated that he is the next rock in the middle of the French defense. The one good thing about Domenech's rule of Serie B players is that we don't have to see Boumsong.....
- Sebastien Frey - He has always been the forgotten keeper for France. But he has been plying his trade, and doing so very well, in Italy for many seasons. Where he English he would be a clear #1 on his national team. For now he has to accept his role behind Coupet and Landreau....but that is one position I am not too concerned about. With Landreau and Frey, France has solid keepers for the foreseeable future.
- The injured - Saha, Henry, Vieira, and Sagnol. There is a lot of experience in those players that will not be available. Vieira will be missed in the middle of the pitch partnered with Makelele, Toulalan is good replacement from the talent level, but does not have the ability to bridge the defense and the offense as well as Vieira can do. Saha and Henry will be missed, but with Anelka's recent form there should not be too much drop off in talent but definitely in depth. The biggest loss is Sagnol. The right back position will need to be filled by Clerc or Sagna (Escude could fill in but not ideal). Both players are talented defenders but lack the experience and the offensive/crossing ability that Sagnol brings. Then again without Trezeguet to latch on to those crosses might not be as important......
How I would line them up for Ukraine -
Clerc, Thuram, Gallas, Abidal
I would throw Nasri into the big bath. Anelka does not necessarily need a #10 to feed him the ball, he can create on his own. Ribery and Malouda can control the channels and force the defenders to key on them while Nasri would be asked to distribute to 3 quick offensive players. With Toulalan and Makelele protecting him, I think Nasri would be free to leverage his offensive talents.
I will be curious to see what line up Domenech does give us. I am not sure Cisse and Anelka would make sense with Malouda and Ribery behind them, there would be too many runners and not enough passers, unless you allowed Ribery to slot more to the center of the pitch. That would leave one of the wings too exposed...
These next two games will be a good opportunity to see some of the youth for Les Bleus, I hope that we do not sacrifice results in order to see the youth running around the pitch.