Wednesday, February 29, 2012

France v Germany - dont expect any major changes for Les Bleus

A few hours away from the France v Germany clash in Bremen. The last match before both nations will have to determine which roster to bring to the Euros. Both sides are also ravaged by injury - France without Remy and Benzema while Die Mannschaft will miss Lahm and Goetze to name a few. France will need to be wary of a young and dangerous German team, that surprisingly lost to Ukraine (granted the Germans were experimenting with a previously untested formation in that match) but then went on to spank a highly rated Holland team in their last matches.

France enter this game having not lost a game since they inexplicably dropped one against Belarus in Paris. Yet, Les Bleus have not been overly convincing in their form either...

I think that Blanc will not tinker too much with his line up, other than not being able to play some of his first choice players. How I expect Les Bleus to line up, assuming a 4-2-3-1:

Lloris in goal, he is also going to be wearing the captain's armband for the Euros, well deserved.

Debuchy - Mexes - Rami - Abidal: I would prefer to see the Lille right back start in place of the "safe choice" Reveilliere. I like Debuchy for his offensive punch and being able to bring more options on the right of the formation. Mexes/Rami will be good see after a long absence due to the Milan players injury. Abidal will move to his preferred role back on the left.

M'Vila and Cabaye: again not much change here, I think that Diarra has been pushed down the pecking order (reason why he is not in the conversation for captain), with M'Vila and Cabaye, both under 26, you might have the defensive midfield pairing for the next few years.

Ribery, Nasri, Menez: Ribery is a no brainer on the left and look for Nasri to be given his chances at pulling the strings from the middle, I do expect we will see Martin as well. On the right I waffle between Le Petit Velo - Valbuena and Menez, but I am going with Menez. With a smallish midfield, I think Blanc will go with a player with a bit more height and power.

Giroud - The Montpellier striker leads Ligue 1 and is better form than Gameiro and not sure Blanc wants to give Saha 80+ minutes. Giroud has all the chances to make himself stick with Les Bleus and, unlike Gameiro, offers more of an aerial threat in the penalty box.

I look for a very cautious match between these two sides, however if France are not careful with the ball, they could find themselves down 2 or 3 goals very quickly. I do think there is plenty of motivation to go around to show well in this game. Unfortunately I see Die Mannschaft winning at home: 2-1 on a brace from Klose and a goal from Ribery.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New France Away Kit...not bad

The new France away kit is out...

 Picture from the store on Les Champs Elysees taken earlier this evening. I must admit two days ago when I was in the Nike store and say the Brazil kit being highlighted I was a little surprised, now I know why, they were just waiting for today's release!

Unlike the other away stripe...this one has very few stripes. It does have some influence for the other "football," see the blue stripes on the sleeves. Otherwise, France will run out in all white when on the road. Look for this kit next week in Germany? We shall see since Germany usually plays in a white stripe themselves when they play at home, not sure Adidas and the Mannschaft would want to play second fiddle to Nike and France when it comes to which kit to wear!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In with the old and new - Blanc announces his 23 for Germany match

Well well well. I guess Blanc wants to give the veterans another bite at the apple...but is that a wise move? Le President announces his list of players -

GARDIENS: LLoris, Mandanda, Carrasso
DÉFENSEURS: Abidal, Debuchy, Evra, Mexès, Rami, Reveillère, Sakho
MILIEUX: Amalfitano, Cabaye, Diarra, M'Vila, Malouda, Martin, Nasri
ATTAQUANTS: Gameiro, Giroud, Ménez, Ribéry, Saha, Valbuena

In goal and defense no surprises. Clearly he did not think Sagna was back to 100% and welcomes back the likes of Mexes. Debuchy deserves another call up and might force his way into the team, could he even become Blanc's first choice right back?
Thumbs up on first national team call up

In the midfield, Blanc welcomes Amalfitano from Marseilles, a new comer to the national side but not a huge surprise. His play for OM has opened some eyes recently and he gives Les Bleus another creative option in the midfield. With the OM player, Nasri and Martin he has the options necessary to determine where the creativity will come from in the midfield. Add to this the presence of Ribery, Menez and Valbuena and you additional creative options on the wings. I am a bit surprised that Malouda was selected, it appears that Malouda is hanging on despite his lack of form with Chelsea.

I wish Blanc had selected one of the youngsters up front, not sure Saha will nor should be in the long term plans for Les Bleus - aka going to the Euros. It will be interesting to see which line up Blanc goes with in Germany. I picture Blanc will leverage what he hopes is his standard back line -

Abidal - Mexes - Rami - Debuchy

In the midfield look for Cabaye - M'Vila to be the holding midfielders...with Ribery - Nasri - Valbuena as the creative midfield engine and Gameiro up front. A patch work no doubt, but one that should be able to hold its own.

Allez les Bleus

Les Bleus - who will be in Germany next week - telling for Euro roster

We are about 30 minutes away from finding out who will be suiting up for Les Bleus next week to face Die Mannschaft. The big question mark is who does Blanc look for to carry the scoring burden. With Remy and Benzema out due to injury the spotlight turns on Gameiro - who has been struggling with PSG and Giroud - the darling of second place side Montpellier.

Could the door be open for Gomis or will Blanc look to turn to some wily veterans such as Cisse or Saha. An interesting option would be to look to youngsters such as Riviere or Lacazette? The latter getting more time with Lyon and scoring the lone goal in the Lyon champions league match. It will be telling if Blanc looks to this friendly match to blood some new players with an eye towards who he could leverage in the Euros or does he go a "safe route" that sees him leaning on veterans.

We should find out in about 45 minutes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

FIFA World Rankings...what a load of...

The new rankings are out!!! Yahhhh. Okay I realize I should write about the Champions League, but a)I had work so was not able to watch b)had I been able to watch I would have turned off the massacre in Milan...disgraceful...

But anyways, once again the FIFA world rankings are out...and Spain remains tops. But what always amuses me is how some nations seem to find themselves ranked. Uh England fifth? Really? Above Brazil and Italy? Really? Does anyone in their right mind really think England is the fifth best national side in the world? The other interesting fact, only two nations outside Europe in the top 10: Uruguay at #4 and Brazil at #7, Argentina is #11. The United States is down to #31, guess the Klinsmann experiment isn't going as expected...yet. Then again I heard rumors that Klinsmann might be called back to Europe to take over Tottenham if Redknapp heads off to manage England.

Once again the FIFA world ranks shows that they are about as important as the paper it would be printed on were we back in a paper news world!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

France out of the Euros...and the England game isn't for another 4 months

Ugh, just when we thought that France had some sanity with the national side and some stability with Laurent Blanc, all seems to be crashing around the team. And the tournament has not even started! All signs point to Le Graet wanting to move on from Blanc once the tournament comes to a conclusion. What happened???

This situation became dicey when the FFF did not want to commit to Laurent Blanc beyond the Euros (that is when his contract runs out). Since he took the role, Blanc has fed the media and others the line that he understood the situation and implied that he should not continue if France fail to show well in Poland/Ukraine. Le Graet recently reiterated that he wants Blanc, but will have to see what happens this summer before committing long term. Of course this has all degenerated in recent days and now it appears that Blanc and Le Graet have reached an impasse. The FFF is now claiming that Blanc is not working with the federation, that he has too big a staff, that Blanc is a prima dona with his own PR team etc...and that since no one (supposedly even Blanc) think France will do anything this summer, maybe not even get out of the group stage, it is time to think ahead. Again...WHAT IS GOING ON!!! After going through the disaster that was Domenech that we endured for THREE tournaments, the fact we finally have someone who commands respect, has the team on the right track and is giving some promise why are we looking to sack him before we have even reached Valentines Day?

From the outside it appears that La Graet wants to put his stamp on the FFF and Blanc is not allowing him to stamp what he wants. Does Blanc have an ego? I am sure he does...what manager at this level doesn't...Mouinho anyone, Wenger, SAF, Klinsmann, list goes on...

Barthez is being paid 90,000 Euros a year, if that is the problem tell Blanc to get rid of him, don't cut your nose to spite your face. Blanc has a PR person. Again is that a fire-able offense? Blanc certainly appears responsive to all the FFF press demands, if his ego needs his own PR then so be it, maybe he is just a good businessman. I understand that no one should be bigger than the federation and nation, but these are fixable issues. Don't leverage these as reasons for telling your manager to take a hike in July!

If Le Graet wants to put his stamp on the FFF, give Blanc a vote of confidence - allow him to be prepared for the Euros by knowing he has a contract to get through to the World Cup. France need to focus on a two tournament strategy, with Brazil 2014 as the main objective for this cycle (with Euro 2016 being in France). A nation like France cannot "take off" any Euro, but it cannot also be so myopic as jettisoning a successful manager at the first sign of "issues."

Bye Bye Capello...a year too late?

Shocking news - Capello resigned from the Three Lions. Not shocking that Capello is leaving his role as head of England. Let's face it, he has had a rocky relationship with England and its fans since the FA hired the Italian. Capello has not really shown much since he took over the nation. Between constantly calling up Beckham so he could chase the England record for caps or the debacle at the 2010 World Cup where once again England had no clue how to leverage Lampard and Gerrard, or how to create width with some wingers, or what to do for Rooney...

So Capello exits after leading England to Euro qualification, so what now for the Three Lions? As the statement from the FA points out - most of the managers are currently tied up with their clubs. I am sure Redknapp would jump at the chance, especially were Tottenham mid-table. Shocking, however, the Spurs have a half chance of winning the Premiership, but are clearly in a good position to qualify for the Champions League. How about Wenger? Not sure the Arsenal manager wants to manage at the national level...and would he chose England over a chance at France (rumors are that Blanc might be out next summer, regardless of how Les Bleus do). Regardless, the Professor still is fighting to get the Gunners back in Champions League.

The best answer might already be walking the halls of the FA offices - Stuart Pearce who is managing the U-21s. As former player and one understands the meaning of wearing the white shirt of England (watch the video below of , he might be just want the senior squad needs to motivate them heading into the Euros.

Or how about this - The Special One resigns, takes the helm of England for the Euros, wins the title and then anoints himself the greatest of all time, tells the FA to fire SAF from Manchester United and then gives himself a life time contract....

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Special One - pouting in Madrid wants back to the Prem

Lets put aside the 7-1 drubbing that Arsenal handed out this weekend of the ridiculous defense at Chelsea, up 3-0 in the second half!! The intriguing story that I have been meaning to write about - the Special One and his desire to return to England. Actually the Chelsea game might flame the fires of seeing Mourinho coming back to his old stomping grounds - Chelsea.

Together at last??

How did this all start? With the Special One whining about his role at Real Madrid that his players don't listen to him and that he cannot get the best of Barcelona. But is a return to England really that viable? What clubs have the ability to attract the Special One? There need to be a few things in place to even consider reaching out to Mourinho and his gigantic ego: deep transfer kitty, brand name and money to fuel his ego. That basically eliminates all but a handful of teams: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham are the ones that fit the bill:
  • Manchester United - SAF isn't going anywhere next season, although this would be the natural fit for Mourinho. After managing Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid the Red Devils would be one of the few clubs at the level of Real Madrid. He has expressed interest in succeeding Sir Alex but I do not see that happening right away. Odds - 250:1
  • Manchester City - the nouveau riche of football, would look very similar to the situation he took on at Chelsea. A club that has been toiling away in the shadow of the bigger club in the city it plays in that has a massive cash infusion and can all of sudden compete. If Mancini fails to win the league, and even if he does win, I could see the Citizens look to add another superstar this time on the touch line. Unlike with Chelsea, I am not sure Manchester City's owners are going to be as meddling down the road, the reason why Jose decided to leave the Blues. Odds - 7:1
  • Liverpool - Mourinho turned them down once, but what greater challenge than taking over the storied club and win the league! Something that has not happened in ... well forever. Also, the Special One and his ego would LOVE doing something one of his rivals - Benetiz - failed to do, beat Manchester United for the Premiership. However, Liverpool look like a long shot for Champions League football and not sure that Henry et al will make a move to move away from Dalglish just to get Mourinho. Then again, Liverpool might need a Jose to lift them to levels that haven't been enjoyed in a very long time. Odds 10:1
  • Arsenal - Ugh, now that would be a headline, Mourinho taking over for Wenger.  Much like with the Liverpool opportunity, I am sure that somewhere in Mourinho's ego there is a burning desire to take over Arsenal and win what Wenger could not, but Jose has done twice - win the Champions League. Arsenal have the funds to both support Jose's salary and transfer desires, but would they open the purse strings? Unlikely. But what a juicy situation that would be if we say Jose patrolling the Emirates home touch line. Odds 50:1
  • Tottenham - The Spurs are the darlings of this season, sitting third with some pundits claiming they might actually have a run in them to contend for the title, doubtful. With Harry Redknapp embroiled in a tax evasion trial but more importantly the fact Capello is doing everything he can to get out of managing the Three Lions, there could be a natural landing sport for Harry. Fact of the matter is, Harry has never been shy about wanting to manage at the international level. The main issue is can Tottenham afford the Special One? That is where I think they fall short...well short. Odds 75:1
End of the day I think we see Mourinho make the shock move to take over Liverpool. Assuming the Crypt Keeper John Henry agrees to open the purse strings...Jose will see this as a challenge to take over one of football's most storied clubs, but one that has been left in the dust during in the Premiership era. His giant ego will not be able to turn down the challenge and to stick it to Benetiz by winning a Prem title.

Ah Jose, it would be good to have you back in England!