Friday, September 03, 2010

France v Belarus - the real work starts for Blanc and Les Bleus

International football has become a continuous series of high impact matches. Good or bad, but teams have barely had time to enjoy or mourn their experience in South Africa and they are back to work. Especially the teams in UEFA - with qualification for the Euro commencing today in earnest. Of course this is very good for Les Bleus, get rid of the malaise from the World Cup fiasco and more importantly from 6 years of Domenech.

Les Bleus kick off today versus Belarus in Paris. On paper this should be a full 3 points for France and it has to be a full three points. France are not in an easy group -  Group D : France, Romania, Bosnia, Belarus, Albania and Luxembourg. On paper looks easy. However France always struggles with the Eastern European nations...and there are 4 of them in the group. Traveling to all those locations is not an easy task. For that reason, France must maximize their points at home. With the start of the campaign against Belarus in Paris with a trip to Bosnia looming - Les Bleus must ensure maximum points today.

Mexes will be given another chance to shine
Without his play makers, Blanc will most likely go with a 4-4-2 leaning on the two wide midfielders for the creativity - who would appear to be Malouda and Menez. Hourau and Remy up front will be called upon to secure some goals against Belarus. The question remains - will Blanc look for a more offensive pairing in the middle of the park? Will he have one natural holding midfielder to act as the cover for the back 4 and allow the second "holding" midfielder to be more offensive? If he does go with ADiarra and Diaby it would appear that Diaby will be given the freedom to push higher up the pitch playing a similar style that he does at Arsenal. The back line will be anchored by the Rami-Mexes pairing, which I think has a very high ceiling - especially if Mexes allows his talent to come to the surface and plays without fear. He needs to force himself to realize that he is not playing for Domenech so does not need to constantly look over his shoulder. The return of Lloris in goal with Sagna and Clichy at the fullback slots should provide a strong defensive base. I will be very interested in seeing the quality of crosses both fullbacks can offer to a striker like Hourau. This aspect of the game will be key to the success of Les Bleus.

France should win this match, Belarus will offer a good test with regards to breaking down a compact and organized team. However they really do not have a significant number of quality players - outside of Hleb and Kutuzov who both play in bigger European leagues. I trust that Blanc will have his team well organized and focused on the task at hand, he might even get the team to learn to sing! Les Bleus need to get the full 3 points before heading to Bosnia next week. If France can emerge from these two matches with at least 4 points, they will be a strong position to win the group. Clearly 3 of those 4 points would be easier to get at home against Belarus than on the road at Bosnia!

Prediction: France 3 - Belarus 0. Menez 2, Hourau 1

Allez Les Bleus!!!

Side note: what is interesting about Group D is that the young Lyon and Bosnia play maker Pjanic could have played for 3 of the nations: He plays for Bosnia, played for the youth Luxembourg side and qualified for and was recruited by France.

At least you can see Blanc practicing what he is preaching - singing during the anthems!

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