Sunday, June 24, 2012

Les Bleus - Glass half empty, but the half full has some optimism

So it has been less than 24 hours and the long knives have already come out. No surprise. After being thoroughly outplayed in their last group game, coupled with a timid exit from the 1/4 finals, there plenty of ammunition for the pundits to question Les Bleus. Let's look at what we learned from France's run:

The Good:
One of the few bright spots for Les Bleus
  • Reaching the 1/4 finals. I realize this is difficult to process after what we saw yesterday. However, after two disastrous tournaments - Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 - getting out of the group stages was one of France's goals. Les Bleus navigated their first two games as they should. While they could have hoped for a better result versus England, they were able to come back after being down 1-0. They then resumed regular service when they defeated co-host Ukraine 2-0. With 4 points, Les Bleus knew they had a foot into the 1/4 finals, good to take care of business from the start...not all good...more on the bad later.
  • The emergence of Lloris....okay this is not a news flash! Lloris did not have much of a chance to shine in South Africa, but he showed his class at these Euros. I would only fault him on the English goal, the others he gave up were unstoppable. The Lyon keeper will be backstopping Les Bleus for many years to come. A team cannot underestimate the comfort in having a stable #1 to call on....look at what Hart is doing for England!
  • A duo of M'Vila - Cabaye to build on? I realize that M'Vila struggled with an injury and at times was not able to display his full range of abilities. On the contrary, Cabaye had a coming out party at the Euros. His ability to link the defense and offense were on display in his first two games. He even opened his goal account with Les Bleus. Both players are young and look for France to build on this base in the midfield.
  • Menez playing on the right. I realize we have a small sample size. However the PSG winger was one of the few offensive players who fulfilled his role. He kept the right wing occupied and allowed the French to have the width necessary to off set the tendency to lean on the left with the likes of Ribery. Menez should scored more in his game versus Ukraine, but it was his goal that unblocked the situation. There is a future for the PSG winger on the right side of the French formation. But enough about the good....let's get to the juicy part.
The Bad:
  • Backing into the 1/4 finals. As I had posted prior to the Sweden game, click here for post, I thought it was very important for France to end the group stages on a win after getting the 4 points after their first two games.The fact Les Bleus were thoroughly outplayed in their game against the vikings was a bad omen for yesterday. It is unlike what happened in 2000 when France lost their last group game against co-host Holland 3-2...starting a secondary line up. France had won their first two games and knew they were headed to the 1/4 finals. Many would argue that they were happy to finish second in the group since they would stay in their location. This time around, France should have wanted to finish first - avoid facing Spain! Alas, Les Bleus exhibited some hubris and lacked the professionalism to finish out the group. The reaped what they sowed.
  • I have to question Blanc's over managing at times. Of course had France come out of yesterday with the win we would all be heaping praises on his brilliance. I cannot completely throw Le President under the bus. I like the fact he was willing and able to shift strategies based on his opponents. Unlike his predecessor who would, apparently, blindly threw out the same line up. However does this gloss over a bigger problem? Did Blanc have faith in his team where he could just roll out his best formation and basically take on the challenge - strength on strength? At some level I think Blanc did not have complete faith in his team. Did not trust his best line up could beat another team's best line up. I do question starting Debuchy high on the right side. I understand the reasoning...but the reality is the Lille right back was dangerous when he was able to overlap and make runs from deep. Starting him higher on the pitch did not allow him to do accomplish this. Had Blanc really wanted more defense, why not start Matuidi? Have Debuchy play right back. Instead it felt like a round peg in a square hole. Again hindsight is 20/20. Good for Blanc to be flexible but sometimes one can over think the situation.
  • France needs an on the field leader! I realize that Lloris wears the arm band, and leads through example (he is the only player who gets a good rating for all his games) but he is not a leader a la Platini, Vieira, Zidane, Deschamps or Desailly. A player that will lead not only through example but by telling teammates to get it together. Les Bleus need one...could it be Cabaye or M'Vila eventually? Maybe. But there wasn't one in Poland/Ukraine.
The Ugly:
No repeat...yet
  • La Generation 87...Nasri, Benzema, Ben Arfa and to some extent Menez (although I did praise him earlier!) did not show up.  Yes Nasri scored the equalizer against England, but where was he in the other games? His tendency to drift to the center of the park left his right side vacant. He did not provide the offensive outlet the team needed. Benzema had a large number of shots and two assists against Ukraine...but he is our striker, he needs to score goals. I realize he got frustrated and dropped deeper to get the ball, but a striker can go all game with very few touches and still be effective. Look at Inzaghi! You would never hear his name for Milan or Italy and then all of sudden 3 touches and a brace! If Benzema is more comfortable playing deeper, like Ibrahimovic for Sweden, then France need to line up a true striker. Otherwise teams will just let their last bank of 4 sit deep and keep everything 10 - 15 yards in front of them. Finally Ben Arfa for his brief time on the pitch was a shell of himself. Where was the Newcastle player who ran at defenses and forced teams to their back heels? Granted he had a short run of it, but did not step into the opportunity.
  • I don't think Mexes covered himself in glory. First he seemed to show up in less than ideal shape. Second he continued to make mental mistakes during the games. Finally getting that second yellow card was silly...granted it might have been for the best since I think the Spanish would have skinned him alive. But for the 30 year old defender might he have seen his international career pass him by? I was always a fan of his, I think Domenech was a fool in the way he handled the AC Milan libero during his peak years. Unfortunately we are now getting him on the back nine of his career. Alas, another legacy left by Dumbenech!
  • Speaking of seeing the last of a player, I do not think that we will see Malouda for France any more. It is a shame. Flo has always been a good soldier for France. And another player that was mishandled by Domenech. I respect the reasoning behind why Blanc took the veteran Chelsea man, but his play on the field was not good. He was invisible. While it was ugly, I will thank Flo for his time and play for Les Bleus.
  • Finally, speaking of ugly...what Nasri did post game was unacceptable. That was ugly.
So France head home. Not as early as the last two tournaments, but still with too many questions and doubts. There is a core to build upon. There remains some hope! I hope that Blanc stays on, he has done a lot already and changing jockeys at this point would seem counter intuitive. Allow him to build to World Cup 2014. 


Anonymous said...

Boss thanks for ur grt word is we need disciplined player..Ben Arafa, Samir is not good disciplined please subtract them.

Also i think france need some pure french player...otherwise team suffer every time...
i want LB remain as coach...and Pray for another team leader like Zidan Platini type player come sap.


GFC said...

I agree with the disciplined player, Ben Arfa and Nasri seem to create issues off the pitch. If we had a stronger leader in the dressing room, other than the coaching staff, we could handle the egos.

As for the pure french players, I think the beauty of the team is the diversity. Don't forget that Zidane is a son of Algerian parents and Platini is the son if Italian immigrants! Our team has really always been a strong mix of French from all different backgrounds. What made Zizou and Platini great was their leadership. They also had some great lieutenants as well - Vieira, Thuram, Bossis, etc.