This time around, France sits on top of their group and all they need is a draw to get into the next round, could even loss the game and get in...but let's keep it simple. France need to win this game. Period. Sweden is already out of the tournament, only they and Ireland were eliminated before the last group game. Sweden have nothing to play for but pride. Sweden will pose a good challenge for Les Bleus.
Let's face it, France has won one game in major tournaments in 9 tries and it was against Ukraine. Nothing against the co-hosts, but this is their first European Championship ever...and they are ranked 52nd. If France expects to do anything beyond they 1/4 finals they must show that they have overcome the malaise that has struck them the past few years. Additionally, Sweden will test one area of France's game that has been lacking for a few years - defending set pieces.
Another aspect - France has three players on a yellow card - Mexes, Debuchy and Menez. I debated whether or not Blanc should look to protect these players, but I realized that if he tried to get too cute and France do not go through...well it will turn ugly. I expect Les Bleus to start a formation looking to win, looking to go forward and build on what they have done so far.
|Look for the Rennes MF to get higher up the pitch|
How I see the starting line up -
Clichy, Mexes, Rami, Debuchy
Diarra, M'Vila, Nasri
Ribery, Benzema, Menez
Look for Nasri to have the freedom to roam wing to wing as well as play a higher line or drop deeper. M'Vila will play more like he does at Rennes in a traditional Relayeur role - linking up between the back 1/3 and the attacking 1/3. Diarra will continue to hold on to his role as midfield destroyer. The Marseille man will be tasked to keep an eye on Ibrahimovic, much of Sweden's offense goes through the big man who plays a 9 1/2 type role almost a traditional #10. I would look for Benzema to try and play a higher line, pushing the Swedish defense deeper and getting service from the wings. I would hope to see Clichy get a start again, he gives France more of a threat from the left back than Evra did in the game against England. He partners well with Ribery and opens up the diagonal run for the Kaiser. On the other side, Menez showed that he can keep his discipline by staying on the right wing, while he does drift inside at times, he is holds his channel better than Nasri who's natural instinct is to drift more to the center of the park. I also think that the first half of the Ukraine match, Menez had some jitters (it was his first action in a major tournament), but getting the goal in the second half should boost his confidence and I look for him to be more clinical from the start.
France needs to play for the win, while minding the players on a yellow. Meaning - if France go out to a lead and have the luxury look for Mexes to get some time on the bench with Koscielny getting some run as well as Reveillere on the right. If the game is tight until the end, Blanc might still look to afford himself this luxury.
Prediction - France 3 Sweden 0. Brace from Benzema and goal from Rami.
Allez les Bleus!!!