Sunday, October 10, 2010

2 in a row...Les Bleus are back on track and sit atop Group D for the the Euros

Amazing what 2 wins in a row will do for a team...after a missed Euro qualifying start where France fell on a last gasp goal versus Belarus, Les Bleus have found success away to Bosnia and home against Romania. France now sits atop group D with six points:

Looks a lot better than 2 games ago

Clearly the table looks much more reassuring than it did a few games ago! So let's get into the game:

The Good:
  • The win - it cannot be emphasized enough how important the full 3 points were to France. Not just for the qualifying campaign but for the team as a whole. With every victory the bitter taste of 6 years of Dumbenech as well as the failed South African campaign seems more and more like a bad nightmare. The primary goal is to qualify for the Euro in 2012 and being in first place after 3 games, albeit by 1 point, is still first place. The fact that your 2 closest competitors are 1 pt behind and consist of Albania and Belarus, should give France great hope to win the group. As I stated in a prior blog post, the win away to Bosnia gains that much more importance. I realize that Belarus got a famous victory at Stade de France, but a draw against Luxembourg means that advantage has been squandered...assuming Les Bleus do not fall into the same trap this Tuesday! Additionally, it was a breath of fresh air to see France not lose their composure against a team that was playing for the draw - and to get the vital goals in the last 10 minutes of the game.
  • The coaching from Laurent Blanc played a major part in the victory. There is a reason why France was able to break down the Romanians late, intelligent substitution. Something that always seemed to be missing with Domenech, something I had long criticized him for. Bringing in Remy, another fast winger, for Valbuena who had done so much positive work on the right flank (really could have had a goal were it not for a desperation save and a cross bar!) to wear down the Romanian defense led to the first goal. Inserting Payet for Benzema, a change of pace striker, clearly broke down the Romanian defense for the 2nd goal, scored by the other substitute - Gourcuff. Until the goal, Gourcuff had not had the expected impact on the game but being able to run out one play maker Gourcuff, for another Nasri, ensured that there was always a "#10" on the pitch for Les Bleus. As Blanc stated, you win games with 14 players - the starting 11 and your 3 subs in case Domenech is reading and cannot do the math.
  • I have to say that Clichy showed me something during the game, granted he had a counter that was too easily lost to Romania that almost led to a Romanian goal. Otherwise his pace and offensive minded runs created danger and opportunities all night for France. He worked well with Malouda and his desperation header in the 47th minute ensured that France keep their clean sheet. I will still ding him for his crosses, while improved still need to be more consistent and precise to take his game to another level.
  • Mexes - Rami looks like a good central defensive duo that France can lean on for years to come. Surprise surprise, both are natural central defenders! Wow what a grand idea, play players in their positions. Once again both players compliment each other very nicely. Mexes even had a good occasion to score in the 51st minute forcing a good save from the Romanian keeper.
  • The holding duo of M'Vila and ADiarra are also looking more and more like one of the pillars Blanc is looking to develop. It is amazing that M'Vila is all of 20 years old, he looks like a seasoned veteran. Strong in his tackles, great positioning and a calming presence. Diarra looks more and more like he wants to not only hold on to his starting role but also the captain's arm band. It was his clinical pass from deep that spring Remy in for the first goal.
  • The newcomers - Remy and Payet - both demonstrated the quality they possess. I realize that Remy has been in the side in the past, but always on the fringe. Clearly both demonstrated some values that could prove important for France moving forward. In the 10 minutes Payet played he grab himself an assist and almost opened his goal account forcing a good save from the Romanian keeper. While Remy's change of pace and coolness in front of goal were decisive, granted he really should have done better on Malouda's 88th minute cross that found the Lyon winger alone on the far post with, what appeared to be, the simplest of headers to give him the brace. I guess in that area he resembles the player he is sometimes compared to - Titi Henry!
  • Nasri also had himself a very strong game. He was unfortunate not to score when the Romania keeper made an emergency save with his rear end. Otherwise the Arsenal #8 was the maestro for the offense when he was on the pitch. Makes you wonder why he was left in France this summer.
The Bad:
  • Defensive lapses, I realize that at the international level there is always quality opposing you, but there remains some lapses for France that against better quality sides could prove disastrous. There remains some work to be done when it comes to the fullbacks bringing the ball out from the defensive 1/3 as well organizationally ensuring that the back line does not succumb to the quick counters. I hope that these are things that will work their way out as Blanc gives the team more time to develop.
  • French finishing, I realize they scored 2 goals, but they came late...still count...but France must find a way to do better with the chances they are afforded during the game. I realize that the Romanian keeper had much to do with the fact they could not score earlier, but with the likes of Malouda, Valbuena Benzema, Nasri et al there is ore than enough fire power to get a goal earlier than the 80th minute.
The Ugly:
  • The Belarus game...sorry but dropping 3 points at home to Belarus remains ugly in light of the recent success. Les Bleus could be up 4 points on Albania rather than 1 point up on Albania and Belarus!

Overall I cannot be anything but happy after this match. Clearly France is starting something "new" and building something as Blanc and many of the players voiced.  There are players that are emerging as pillars - Mexex:Rami in central defense, M'Vila in the midfield, Malouda on the left to name a few. Unlike his predecessor, Blanc appears to have a much clearly strategy that he is actually sticking with! I will be curious to see if, ever, Ribery and Evra find their way back into this side.

Highlights of the second half, when all the action happened!

Of course all of this will be wasted if France do not take care of business this Tuesday against Luxumbourg! But for now all is starting to be right with Les Bleus.

Allez Les Bleus


Jose said...

Congrats on the French victory!! Nice to see Les Bleus at the top of Group D!

GFC said...

Thank you my friend! I trust we are seeing the rise of Les Bleus long overdue!

Richard said...

Very nice win, with strong backing throughout from the Saint Denis stands no less. The only glaring faults I might cite, apart from the inability to score earlier (although, yes, all credit to the Romanian 'keeper), is that Benzema often kept the ball too long and too high, which left a void at center forward, and Clichy's couple of screwups. Gael can learn, but I'm not sure about KB. I also would have liked to see a Nasri-Gourcuff pairing, and think we might against Luxembourg (does Nasri switch to the right wing or do one of the DF's come off?) Lastly, I'm thinking that bringing back either Ribery or Evra risks compromising a squad with promise and potential.

philip said...

I don't think France ever topped the group at all in the world cup qualification. I'm not use to this.

GFC said...

Richard, very good points. Benzema found himself too isolated during the match, granted he was being blanketed by Chivu, Romania's best player, as well as the rest of the back 4 so difficult for the Madrid player. I am not sure if Blanc needs to think about playing 2 strikers or if time will make it easier for KB.

I completely agree on Evra and Ribery, the more success the team has the further away these two players might find themselves from being included. Clearly if Ribery recovers from injury and starts putting together some great games and if Evera does likewise for ManU it will be a good problem for Blanc, but there is no guarantee that either will get back into the side.

Clearly the team is building something, the fact the team that walked out onto the pitch averaged 25 years of age is very telling.

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