Monday, October 10, 2011

France v Albania...some thoughts...a few days late!

I am remiss to have not had the time to post some thoughts on the France v Albania match from last Friday. It turned out to be a relatively easy victory for Les Bleus: 3-0, a score that one would expect when teams such as these meet. Some quick thoughts:

The Good:
  • Have to start with Samir Nasri, the Citizen has come under tremendous criticism as of late for his showings wearing the French stripe, and they have been deserved. He has not been able to replicate his Premier league form for France. Even being benched for the match away to Romania. However a new and apparently more at ease Nasri showed up this time around. He openly joked with the media about the scrutiny he was being placed under. Clearly this new attitude served him well as he played one of his better matches for France. He appeared more comfortable given the responsibility to manage the right channel.  He frequently cut back to the middle, dropped deep when he needed and even lend a hand defensively, no better image of that than seeing him at the top of the French penalty box late into the game when France were already ahead 3-0 working hard to win a ball. The goal by Remy was created by Nasri who shed no less than 4 Albania defenders who all were trying to take down the Manchester City player, he broke into the penalty area gave a neat little fake to draw the defenders before laying off a sumptuous little through ball on the running Remy. Blanc expressed his happiness with the way Nasri played, now it is up to the former Marseilles and Arsenal midfielder to build on this showing - if he does that is great for Les Bleus.
  • 14 caps and he is only 21, clearly M'Vila is one of Blanc's core players that he mentioned when took over Les Bleus. He was the metronome for France, sitting comfortably infront of the back 4, providing an outlet for the midfield when they found themselves in trouble and being a defensive rock when need be. With M'Vila, Blanc might have the luxury of playing with only one pure holding/defensive midfielder, similar to what Spain did in 2008 with Senna.
  • Remy is starting to come into his own as a footballer. His pace on the flank was something Albania had no answers for, he created the first goal by simply running by the defense event thought they were giving him a very healthy cushion. His goal was cheeky as he nutmegged the keeper and his work rate on the flank kept Albania on their back heel. One has to wonder what will happen with Ribery returns healthy, will Blanc look to unleash Remy on the right wing and Ribery on the left? 
  • Scoring early...cliche I realize, but one cannot overstate how vital it was for France to score early in this match. Against a team like Albania, you always get a bit concerned if you take too long to score that first goal. The longer the underdog keeps a clean sheet the greater their confidence grows and more stern their defending...and you can always get the "hold up" as we saw earlier in these qualifiers as Belarus sprung a late goal to take the full 3 points from France.
  • The crowd at Stade de France, recently the crowd at the Stade de France have been fickle, and with reason. They have booed the team and when Dumbenech was still there chanted requests for the coach to resign (something I wholeheartedly supported!). But this match there was something different the supporters backed up the team, the enthusiasm reverberated through out the stadium - even giving Cisse many standing ovations (he used to get booed!).
The Bad:
  •  French injuries, you never want to see them but you know they will occur but seeing Evra and Cabaye having to sub off due to injury is not good. With a big match coming up you want to keep what you have intact, especially since France are already "under - manned" due to injuries. Something to keep an eye on, especially since Evra and Abidal might be out, interesting to see who could be slotted in at left back.
  • Speaking of Belarus...coming down to the last game with qualification riding on the line is BAD, especially considering France dropped FIVE points to Belarus! A draw at home and a loss on the road are nothing but BAD BAD BAD...border line UGLY. I realize that France and Bosnia are both guaranteed to "play on" one will win the group the other will be put into home and away fixtures against another group runner up.  Now granted, France would go into the #1 Pot if they fail to win the group and therefore most likely miss potential opponents such as Belgium/Turkey, Croatia or Denmark (based on current standings)...but why go through that stress...remember France v Ireland to get to World Cup 2010?
The Ugly:
  • Did anyone get the number of that Albanian tackling machine? The Eastern Europeans clearly lived up to their reputations as a tough side, but some of their tackles were border line criminal. 
  • The Albanian keeper - Ujkani - did not cover himself in glory. Granted his defense at times let him down and trying to stop point blank shots isn't always easy. But he was beaten between the legs and to the short side...granted I have given up my fair share of goals in this manner but I have never represented my country! Ugly goals...
Overall happy to see the win, Les Bleus did what they should have done - beaten Albania with relative ease. Now onwards to the "mini final" against Bosnia...

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