Friday, June 04, 2010

France head into World Cup, questions abound

Oh well, so Les Bleus will head to South Africa with a lackluster 3 friendly matches: 1-1-1 with 3 goals scored, 3 goals conceded. Not exactly the results you want to have as you head into the Uruguay match on June 11. The worst of all is the loss to China 1-0 (I guess part of me should be happy since I am 50% Chinese so I will have to go wear my Chinese national team jersey). Let us look at the match:

The Good:
  • For France not much. The one positive was the play of Gallas. He played the full match and looked very strong. He appeared to be the only French player with any desire to try and score a goal. His disallowed goal in the first half was a brilliant jumping back heal, but was properly called off side. He missed a wide open net as time ran out in the game which would have made the scoreline somewhat more acceptable. Just the fact he was able to play all 90 minutes was reassuring.
  • Zeng, the Chinese keeper was very good made some important saves namely on a terrific shot from Diaby in the second half that looked destined for the bottom corner. Zeng was strong in the air and very calm facing a number of shots from the French.
  • The Chinese back 4 was organized and disciplined throughout the match. They defended as a unit and knew when to dive at French players to block shots. There was never any panic when the French pressed offensively, the Chinese defense held their line and ensured they kept themselves between their goal and the ball.
The Bad:
  • Hmmmmm where to go with this one...the lack of French goals? 3 goals in 3 matches, not great - one was an own goal and another from your central defender. Smells too much like 2002. None of the strikers really showed they were ready to win the golden boot award. The best chances in this match came from Diaby and Gallas! Not reassuring.
  • Where is the right side???? Once again Domenech insists on running Govou on the right wing for most of the match. While he did bring in Valbuena, it might have been nice to see the Marseilles winger playing opposite the
    former Marseilles winger Ribery. The combination of players animating their respective wings would have been good to see for at least 15 minutes! It was painfully clear the first half that all the French attacks were coming through Ribery and the left channel. It became almost farcical when once in a while Gourcuff or Malouda would cross the ball to the right where inevitably Govou would lose the ball - almost as if they were saying "we know there is a right side of the field so we will just kick a ball over there to show you"
  • The goal given up by Lloris was not good to say the least. The Lyon keeper did not have much to do all match, although he had to keep his cool late in the game on a fumbled corner kick that almost made it 2-0 China. Granted the direct kick has some serious knuckle to it, the ESPN3 crew were convinced it had been deflected, but the shot was from distance and Lloris seemed to over anticipate where he thought it was going. I am sure we will be hearing how the ball is terrible and does strange things now....maybe we should go back to the old Tango.
The Ugly:
  • The last two matches for France have been UGLY. The draw with Tunisia was poor, France did not look as if they were interested in trying to score or do much of anything most of the match. This game was really ugly, not simply because of the outcome, but due to the lack of any glimmer of hope from France. They dominated possession yes, but did they really make themselves dangerous in front of goal, not so much. In neither game did one feel comfortable with the rotation of players or with their ability to score goals.
  • Domenech. Okay he is an easy target no doubt, but this is getting very ugly. First I still have to question his list of 30 and subsequent list of 23. You take a 19 year old untested player as your only back up for holding midfielder? You then take, what appears to be 10 strikers? Seems as if he selected his list based on tarot cards. Second, I do applaud him for recognizing the need to change his system to a 4-3-3. However, in your preparation to make your first list of players you need to run through all scenarios - what if this player gets injured, what if I change my formation, who will be the player I can call on for a late goal, who is my cover for important roles, the list goes on. I fear that Domenech did not give this enough thought. You take Henry, who is basically cover for Ribery who you most likely will not be taking out of games unless he is injured. So where do you play Titi? Up front as the central striker? Well you also took Cisse, Anelka and Gignac all whose profile fits that position. So now you have to try and fit players elsewhere - Anelka on the right? Gignac as a winger? So you have 4 spots tied up with no real strategy on how they will be leveraged. Then you decide to once again go with your binky Govou because he will hold down the right side. And you insist on playing him there all three matches when he is utterly ineffective alone on the right.  You have now used another roster spot for a player that does not seem to be effective in that role when you had other options of players that would have given you more flexibility (Nasri anyone?).  What about play maker? You have Gourcuff but who is cover? At least in 2002 Lemerre had Micoud as cover, granted he did not play him but that is another rant for another day.
  • The strategic choices of Les Bleus, this is really more of a rant on Domenech but something to think about. He has elected a 4-3-3, which I think is wise. However the strategic choice of playing Govou on the right is an utter failure. Why? Govou is a nice player, I would consider fringe international definitely not undisputed starter. What he does do well is give a team some width and maintains his defensive duties. However he needs to do this in a system where he will have support because he cannot take on players alone or break down defenses with his pace. Add to this the fact that Gourcuff is technically aligned on the right, but his natural tendencies are to drift back to the center of the park. Finally Sagna, while very capable of pushing up as he does with Arsenal, also does so when he has a right half back that can cover his area or who he can play 1-2 combinations with. So Domenech, why do we insist on playing a player, Govou, on the right wing when we know our right half back tends to drift inside and our right back cannot really afford to give to much support due to the right half back's tendencies? Govou has basically been left out on an island asked to bring some offensive support but really just stand there and make sure the right touch line does not float away. Therefore why not play someone like Valbuean on the right! Why? He does have the pace and ability to break down defenses, he can make his own space to shoot or cross and clearly all he needs is one chance and he is not afraid to have a go at goal. You might be giving up something defensively, but since you are forcing Sagna to hold back already you are at least gaining on the offensive front. With Valbueana on the right and Ribery on the left, you would force teams to defend much wider this would allow the likes of Malouda and Gourcuff to make runs through the center channels and give space to Anelka. Alas the team leans left and everyone knows this and can adjust their defenses accordingly.
France have a week before they open the World Cup facing Uruguay. Things will be getting more difficult now. Clearly Domenech started somewhat on the right path at Tignes but he has not built from this rather it appears he has gone backwards and add doubt not confidence into the side. There remains a week, things can change. This side clearly has the talent, which makes it that much more maddening. Alas, Blanc cannot start today, we would have a better chance.


NiceAllez said...

So impressed by Zeng -- he reminded me of Lloris, actually, with his poise and quickness. Really looked to have real quality; selfishly, it'd be great to see him playing abroad so we could see his career develop. (I was trying to think of Chinese players in European team leagues but came up empty -- I assume I'm missing some obvious ones, though, right?)

GFC said...

There have been a few Chinese players in Europe - Li Tie played for Everton and Sheffield United. Currently there are a few players in Germany, Portugal and Scotland. Ligue 1 has started to sign some players from China as well.

As for Zeng I would agree he could be an option for a mid-tier club in Europe, see what he can do.

Adam said...

France has managed to make many Costa Rican, Tunisian and Chinese players look good. Playing against France seems to be an excellent career move. Maybe next year we'll see a lot of Urugayans, Mexicans and South Africans playing for the likes of Real Madrid.

GFC said...

Adam, you have a great point...alas

Anonymous said...

i m so upset for this result. i m die heart french supporter since 1986..(That time i was Class 3 student).last week i parchase a french flag.but i m afraid abt french progress in WC.
Why Disallow Gallas 1st half goal??? i m sure it was not in Offside.becuse one Chines player still in Goal line.
from Bangladesh

GFC said...

Alas the off side call was correct. The Chinese keeper had come off his line to block the shot from Anelka. Therefore there was only 1 Chinese player between Gallas and the goal - the defender that was covering the near post. So the call was correct.

I have a little, maybe misplaced, hope that Domenech will grow 1/5 of a brain between now and the Uruguay game and resolves the issues on the right wing as well as center forward. I just think that Domenech will finally allow Valbuena to go out and play 90 minutes and maybe will insert a true center forward such as Gignac up front.

One can always dream!

Justin C. said...

Up front:

Ribery - Gignac (possibly sub Cissé in the 2nd half) - Valbuena

I still think that Dom should have tried it...

GFC said...

@JustinC...I wish Domenech would listen to you! That would give the attack much more balance and put a true center forward at the tip of the attack.