Wednesday, September 05, 2007

France faces major test

I have been neglectful of my blog for the past few days....then again that is what happens when you have a baby...well my wife had the baby I just share in the lack of sleep!

But I had to put some thoughts to keyboard prior to the France v Italy match this weekend. This game will go a long way to determining who from group B will head to Austria - Switzerland for next years Euro championship. The first match up, in Paris, was a complete undressing of the Italians by Les Bleus. The score could have been a much more heavy defeat had Buffon not made some fantastic saves. However only 2 points separate the two neighbors, due in large part to the draw Italy suffered versus Lithuania at home...inexcusable! Both teams have a loss, Italy versus France, and France versus Scotland (also inexcusable). So this match will be vital for both nations.

Why France must win - France has a 2 point lead on Italy and 3 on Scotland, however the loss to the Scots means France cannot not afford to lose another match. If they can come out of Milan with a point or better yet the full 3 points they will have one foot into Euro 2008. I believe that if France is to qualify they will need to win one of the following road games - Italy or on the last day in the Ukraine. I think it is crucial for the French psyche that they get that win sooner rather than later. It is also crucial for a good result in Milan since the Scots visit the Parc des Princes 4 days later, if France head into that match coming off a loss the pressure will be huge maybe too much for a team that is not at full strength (no Vieira, Sagnol, Coupet or Gallas). Finally, a win from France could potentially knock out one of their potential rivals at the Euro, the Azurri, while not the same as having won the World Cup some modicum of revenge.

Why Italy must win -
Italy is the team on the hot seat, the 2 points lost to Lithuania at home looms large over the heads of the Azurri. They still have tricky ties at Ukraine and at Scotland, much like Les Bleus they rather not enter these two matches with increased pressure to win, especially since these other nations have aspirations of securing one of the spots to the Euro. After a poor showing post world cup - the 1-1 draw to Lithuania and the 3-1 drubbing from Hungary (mind you this is not the Hungary of Puskas), Donadoni is on the hot seat in Italy. He cannot afford to have the same fate visit this version of the Azurri as did the last squad that won the World Cup - the 1984 Euros were without the then defending World Cup Champs from 1982....Italia who failed to qualify.

So what will happen? This is a difficult match to predict, so many players are missing from both sides. France are without Coupet, Gallas, Sagnol and probably Vieira. Italy without enemy #1 Materazzi as well as Toni. Due to these losses both nations have questions as to who will back bone their defense. France, should, turn to the talented Roma player Mexes to shoulder the load with Thuram. However Italy has a problem as to who to pair with Cannavaro, especially with Nesta having retired from international football (which makes sense since he always seemed to find himself injured in big tournaments). Italy will most likely build on Inzagi up front without Toni....which means look for ugly attempts at goal from the AC Milan poacher.

As for Les Bleus, the loss of Vieira will hurt, but I believe that Domenech will look to Makelele and Toulalan to shoulder the holding/defensive midfielding duties. The question mark for me will be in goal with Landreau. The former Nantes youth player has all the talent in the world and has been the consummate professional with the French national team, always the bridesmaid rarely the bride, most games he started were against "powerhouses" such as Faroe Islands. But he is one of the better keepers in Ligue 1, arguably single handedly keeping PSG up last season. However this is different, this is playing one of the world's football powers, in their backyard in a vital game. How Landreau goes so will France.

Prediction -

France 2 - Italy 0 Goals from Ribery and Anelka....bold prediction, yes, but I think that Italy is in too much turmoil especially after losing 3-1 to Hungary in a friendly. Without their #1 striker and their punk rock central defender the squad has too many question marks. I think that Anelka and Henry will give the Italian defense too much creativity and speed to handle. Even with this loss I think Italy will still qualify for the Euro....

Allez Les Bleus!


Anonymous said...

Sounds great, 2-0, what a dream! Allez les Bleus! I was at the Stade de France one year ago when we gloriously beat the Azzuri 3-1. Let's hope for a similarly good result!

Does anyone know how I can watch the match for free online?

GFC said...

Let us keep our fingers crossed for the 3 points.....I would even take the 1 point!

As for watching the match, if you have TV5 it will be broadcast in francaise, otherwise I have discovered that GolTV will be carrying the match live as well. At least GolTV picks a good qualifier to broadcast unlike Fox Soccer that is giving is Macadonia vs Russia and Czech Rep vs The Nation of Lambs to Slaughter...