|4-4-2 Diamond: notice the side midfielders are not as wide|
Based on the formation, the midfield diamond is much more compact than a flat midfield 4. Therefore in this formation, the wide full backs are asked to bring width to the attack. They are to make overlapping outside runs to the midfield and provide crosses to the strikers. This formation should give the fullbacks channels to attack since the opponent is expected to defend more compact in the middle of the park. Therefore it is crucial that the wide runs from the fullbacks lead to quality crosses. Blanc did practice with a more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation at Clairefontaine...back to the future...but it would appear that he will lean on the 4-4-2 diamond.
So who are the players? It would appear that the keeper and the back 4 are the same regardless of what formation Blanc has been using in practice -
- Ruffier in goal no brainer, I think he has a legitimate chance to become the France #2 keeper. I am still not convinced that Mandanda nor Carasso are unquestionably the #2 and #3 keepers for Les Bleus.
- Fanni - Rami - Mexes - Cissokho as the back line. I think Sakho had a chance, but due to his age I think Blanc wanted to lean on a more senior central defense. This is the same back 4 I thought Blanc would use. I think the player to watch is Fanni. Why? As I posted before, I am not convinced that Sagna is the clear cut right back for France. If Blanc goes with this formation moving forward, the full backs must be able to consistently provide offensive support through good crosses and runs. I am not sure that Sagna's crosses will meet those requirements, he certainty has not made us forget Sagnol. Cissokho will have a chance to show something on the left, but that position is so deep for France it might be a steep mountain to climb. In the middle, I think it is anyone's place to win, I doubt that either Gallas or Abidal will be back in the picture any time soon.
Ruffier - Fanni, Mexes, Rami, Cissokho - Mvila - Sissoko, N'Zogbia - Nasri - Hoarau, Rémy
Sending Benzema, Ben Arfa and Menez to the bench. Of course this could change at least 4 more times before tomorrow's game. The real question is does Blanc leverage N'Zogbia/Sissoko/Remy or Benzema/Ben Arfa/Menez to start? My sense is you will see all 6 of these players during the game, just depends on who starts and who will most likely come in at the half. I am leaning towards on the former to start, mainly because 2 of the 3 already started their season with Ligue 1.
I am looking forward to the match see some fresh faces and how Blanc runs the squad. The other big test for France is how they defend the set pieces - Norway brings a lot of height and size - let us face it France under Domenech has never been stellar when it comes to defending set pieces. Something to watch for.
For those that cannot watch the match on television, it will be available on ESPN3 at 3:15pm EST.
Allez les bleus.