The Tuna Army comes to Paris and finds a way to once again get 3 points from Les Bleus.....the world must be upside down.
The credit must go to Scotland, who once again frustrated France with their defensive style and took the opportunities when presented to them. McFadden's goal was absolutely unstoppable, an work of art from 25 meters out. What looked like an innocent clearance from the Scotish end turned out to be a wonder goal that gave the Scots the full 3 points. More than can be said of the French strikers that, once again, had great opportunities but looked to be too "pretty" with their finishing. This pains me but here are some thoughts on the game:
The Good -
- Kudos to the Scots, not only did the Steak Tartare army come in force but the team showed a true belief in themselves from the get go. They played defensively but at the start of each half attacked the French much higher than would have been expected throwing off any early rhythm Les Bleus may have enjoyed. At times it appeared the Parc des Princes was somewhere Glasgow's suburbs not in Paris.
- McFadden.... well what can you say about the Everton man, he was very lonely most of the match but made the most of what would usually be only a "half chance." I am sure that even he would admit that 9 times out of 10 that attempt at a wonder strike would have flown harmlessly over the net. But those who dare win...and McFadden dared from 25 meters out and won. Because of that amazing goal Scotland have a legitimate chance of reaching next year's Euro.
- Gordon, once more the Scotish back stop proved a huge hurdle for any side to overcome. He made a sensational reaction save on a powerful strike from Anelka. He was also calm and decisive on high crosses not allowing France any second chances. If Scotland make it to Switzerland and Austria, much of the thanks should be given to their solid keeper.
- French finishing, or the lack there of. France had the run of play, clearly dominating the possession of the ball. They did put the Scottish defense in some serious trouble at points of the game, but they could not make the most of what should have been or could have been a 2 - 3 goal game. Trezeguet attempted to score a wonder goal in the first half on a blind volley, Malouda getting a great ball from Trezegol in the second half wasted time in trying to get the ball to his favorite left foot rather than striking with his right allowing the Scottish defense to snuff out the threat, Anelka forced a great save from Gordon but he should have taken a touch, and Ribery on a great ball on the penalty spot tried to guide his shot in only to see it hit directly at the Scottish keeper.
- French creativity, France was too easy to read for most of the game. They would pass the ball around nicely, try to make a flank run and then just blindly hit a cross, only to find 6 Scottish defenders for 1 French striker.
- I have to question Domenech's game plan and substitutions. First I think that Trezegol should not be blamed for this lose as he unfairly was for the one in Scotland. He did have some good opportunities and was able to distribute some great passes from his post in the penalty area. But I have to wonder why Nasri was not starting....Domenech had to know that Scotland was going to play defensive, he needed another player in the midfield that could break that block. Maybe Nasri need not start but he sure should have come in sooner than he did. The Scottish goal was not a defensive issue, but more a wonderful strike from an individual. Maybe a Nasri - Ribery - Malouda combination would have been too much individual ball handling skill and speed for Scotland to defend....I guess we will never find out.
- French supporters were for the most part silent and when they were making noise it was to whistle their team! The PSG stadium looked more like it belonged in Scotland with all the Blue and White flags ringing the stadium. Maybe French fans have become a bit blase with their national team....maybe the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Cup victories have made us a little too arrogant and disinterested....maybe we are still trying to find this generation's Zidane who we can rally around. Whatever the case France need to rally behind Les Bleus!
So what does this all mean? Basically that Group B is tighter than ever. As it stand Italy and Scotland would be heading to the Euro -
However the last three match days will prove very interesting to say the least. Each team has 9 points to play for, however the top two teams will have to face one another in Scotland.
Assuming France beats Faroe Islands and Lithuania (big assumptions after today's showing) they will have 25 points with the last game in the Ukraine. Scotland play the Ukraine at home and then Georgia away, and finish hosting the Italians. While Italy have Georgia at home and Faroe Islands, with a trip to Scotland sandwiched in between.
France could head to Kiev on 25 points with Scotland on 25 (a draw with Ukraine and win over Georgia) and Italy on 23 (but really 26 since I have to assume the Azurri can beat the Faroe's). Which means the Italy - Scotland match is monumental for all three teams. If Italy were to win that game, the most points Scotland could have would be 27 points. Italy would be in, and it would be down to France winning in Kiev. If Scotland wins, then Italy is stuck at 26 and all France would have to do is draw versus the Ukraine since they have the better head to head versus Italy. If this is confusing that is fine, it just goes to show how tight this group is.
The bottom line is this - France must win their last three games. The winner of Italy - Scotland will win the group, the loser might not go to the Euro. And of course all this changes if Ukraine find 3 points in Scotland.....ahhhh too bad Zidane is not coming out of retirement this time to save our butts......we cannot forget that the defending World Cup champion in 1999 was on the verge of not making the Euro having lost at home to Russia and drawn away to Iceland. They would end up qualifying by the skin of their teeth, and we all know how their Euro 2000 turned out. Maybe history can repeat itself.