Monday, September 06, 2010

France v Bosnia - opportunity for the new France to show itself or more malaise?

Less than 24 hours until Laurent Blanc and Les Bleus head into what will surely be a charged environment of Sarajevo to face Bosnia. This match is proving to be as close to a must win game as has ever faced Les Bleus. After dropping 3 points last week against Belarus while Bosnia took care of their business beating Luxembourg 3-0 away, could have been a heavier victory since Pjanic and Bosnia were up 3-0 after 15 minutes. If Blanc and France leave Sarajevo with no points from 2 games it might be time to focus on securing the second place spot and hoping for a favorable draw for the home and away play off! Not what you would want after only 2 days of qualifying.

Blanc still searching for answers
When the draw was made it was clear that Bosnia would be one of the favorites to win the group with ahem France...the match in Sarajevo always figured to be one France's biggest challenge (the other one away to Romania). During the draw I figured France would hope to take a point away to Bosnia and win on the return leg. Of course I also expected Les Bleus to get at minimum 4 points from their 2 legs against Belarus - victory in Paris and at least a draw away. The situation has only gotten more difficult and challenging for Les Bleus. Add to all these challenges the fact Blanc has lost the majority of his offensive options - Hoarau, Remy and Saha out. Much will be expected of Benzema with regards to carrying the offense. Since we know France and Blanc cannot afford to leave without at least a point, will we see a France more focused on holding off any Bosnian threats. Look to stifle Dzeko, Ibisevic and Pjanic by leaning on a heavily defensive midfield - going back to a 4-2-3-1 formation? Two holding midfielders: M'Vila and Diarra. 3 offensive minded midfielders - Malouda, Menez and Valbuena with Benzema up front. Blanc might look for Malouda to drop deeper to help with defensive duties. Or could Blanc leverage Diaby in the middle 3 - more defensive than Valbuena or Menez...

As Blanc stated, the first goal is for France to defend and ensure at least 1 point from the match. So France find themselves as the underdog heading into this match. Bosnia smell blood in the water and know if they can knock off France they will strike a devastating blow to one of their primary rivals and put themselves in pole position to win the group. We will see if the saying is true - a cornered wounded animal is at its most dangerous. France has been backed into a tough corner, let us see how they react. I think France will defend defend defend to start the match and look to hit Bosnia on the counter. Much will depend on Benzema and if he can carry the offense to Bosnia, he has the ability to do so question remains can he regain that ability that he show cased for Lyon.

This feels like the games away to Romania and Serbia during last qualifying campaign - both France found the intestinal fortitude to fight back and secure a draw in a hostile environment. I expect the same this time. Les Bleus will lean on their strong holding midfield players - Diarra and M'Vila to stifle the Bosnia midfield. Look for Mexes and Rami to counter Dzeko and Ibisevic. Set pieces will be vital for France to defend cleanly and successfully. If they can do so they could keep a clean sheet, but expect France to have to score at least a goal or two to secure the draw or even hope for a win. In the end I think we might see a similar game as to the one played against Serbia. Bosnia will come on very inspired by their home crowd and look to overwhelm France early. I see Dzeko scoring in the first 30 minutes. France will settle down and turn the tide in the second half. Menez - Valbuena - Benzema will be too much for Bosnia to stop for 90 minutes. Menez scores late in the game to grab a vital point for Les Bleus.

Bosnia 1 - France 1

Allez les Bleus

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