Thursday, June 07, 2012

France - Estonia: Building momentum

I have been remiss for not posting on the France v Estonia match, the last one prior to the start of the Euros. But sometimes life gets in the way of my publishing! Here are my thoughts:

The good:
Keys to France's fortunes
  • I realize I sound like a broken record - the victory. Granted France were playing a smaller side in international football - 57th in the FIFA world rankings. The nation still finished second in their qualifying group, behind Italy. They ended up being thumped by Ireland in the playoff. But let us not forget what it was like during the warm up matches for the World Cup in 2010 - France lost to China! That threw everything into a tail spin, granted Dumbenech didn't help the situation and deciding to start Gouvou...sorry I digress. Heading into the Euros on a high note is a positive.
  • Benzema and Ribery - These two have been linked at times for all the wrong reasons, but the fact both got goals is very positive. The fact that Kaiser Frank has scored in three straight games for Les Bleus is even more positive. After not scoring for France in too long, he now seems on a nice streak. Granted he will be facing a slightly tougher opponent on Monday, but he must be heading into the tournament full of confidence. The same for Benzema. After a very successful season at Real Madrid, I wanted to see him score for France before the start of the tournament. 4 years ago he headed into the Euros with a lot of pressure on his shoulders, which he still has. However playing at the highest levels with Real Madrid, having to battle for his place on the squad have allowed him to mature. Getting a brace against Estonia is just what the doctor ordered. He also had a nifty flick on for the Ribery goal.
  • The 4-3-3 seems to be working well for Les Bleus, at least offensively. Scoring 9 goals in 3 games is a very positive sign. The freedom the formation gives to the offensive players has allowed them the freedom to exploit their offense. The move of Malouda to a deeper role seems to be working out very well. The question remains - is the system solid defensively? More on that later.
  • No one got hurt! This cannot be understated, while it looked like Diarra might give us a scare early on, end of the day none of the players picked up any last minute knocks. All you have to do is look at France's first opponent - England - and see what injuries can do to your squad.
The Bad:
  • While not necessary bad, it is not good either...but I am still waiting to see the right side of the offense take the next step. Nasri continues to be a bit maddening in his inconsistency. At times he looks like the player we always expected him to be - able to play the right wing, slot to the middle, drop deep and bring an offensive touch to the side. Unfortunately at times he seems to disappear as well. I am also not convinced of his interplay with Debuchy, the Lille right back makes some very dangerous runs from deep, but I am not sure that Nasri is quite there yet with how to interact with him. We know that Nasri has it in him, but can he be consistent? The one saving grace is that Blanc has a number of options he can throw on the right in games to change the pace - Ben Arfa, Menez and Valbuena can all operate on the right side.
  • Of course on the left side I am concerned about Evra. He does not seem to have the confidence a player of his stature should have. I believe Blanc will stick with him because of his experience, but he is at times a tad shaky. His offensive runs are still useful but on defense he is not the defender we are accustomed to seeing patrolling the left side for Manchester United.
 The Ugly:
  • Speaking of defense...Mexes is starting to give me some concern. There have been whispers of he being out of shape and too "fat." Whether or not his weight is an issue, the fact remains that the AC Milan man has had some gaffs, which against a sterner opponent will not go unpunished. As with Evra, Blanc will stick with his core. Mexes has the talent and ability, the question is he paying for being injured much of the year in Italy? If the central defense gets leaky, this could get very ugly.
  • This is not helped by the current 4-3-3. I realize I stated I thought the 4-3-3 is good, and it is, but defensively it still needs some work. Unlike the formation and how it was leveraged away to Bosnia, where Blanc deployed 3 holding midfielders: Diaby, M'Vila and Diarra. He now has 1 true holding and 2 hybrid holding players...The question is, can Malouda and Cabaye be disciplined enough to pace themselves when it comes to their offensive runs? Both players will have to be very conscious of their defensive responsibilities otherwise we might see the equivalent of run and gun!
Overall there is much to like from this last match. But none of this counts come June 11th. France will have a massive task ahead of it. Look for the Frog's Euro predictions coming out soon!

Allez Les Bleus

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