Thursday, June 14, 2012

Moving day - France v Ukraine

In golf the "moving day" is usually associated with the third day of a 4 round tournament...but we only have 3 group games in the Euros! In the Euros and the World Cup, the second game is when teams figure out who is in to the knock outs and who needs a miracle in the final well as who goes home (see Ireland). So tomorrow's game for Les Bleus will determine if they can get to the 1/4 finals.

The weight on the game cannot be underestimated. First, France is facing the co-host who pulled off a surprise win versus Sweden and sits a top the group. If the Sweden v Ukraine game is any indication, the crowd is going to be super-charged. Second, France have history to contend with...they have not won a game in a major tournament since they defeated Portugal in the 2006 World Cup semi finals! Need I remind you that Zidane was the captain of the team, Barthez was the keeper, Vieira was patrolling the midfield and Inspector Clouseau was the manager (Domenech). Since then Les Bleus have 3 draws and 4 defeats...France need a victory. Granted they could draw against Ukraine and still qualify in their final match. But I rather see a France win for obvious reasons! Finally, France cannot allow Ukraine to get a point or gasp a win! If so it will make the final game very dicey.

So will Blanc change his line up with the return of M'Vila and the ineffective play of Malouda? Not sure...based on his press conference there is a chance he might, but he remains mum.

France will most likely stay with a 4-3-3. The back line and keeper will not change, least last minute injury. The front three will most likely remain the same as well...unless. The question becomes, does Diarra sit for M'Vila and what to do with Malouda?

Paired up like against Bosnia?
Diarra had a good game against England, had he not allowed Lescott run onto the Gerrard free kick for the England goal then I would say he had a very good game. Diarra was a rock the remainder of the game allowing the other midfielders to focus on their offense. Ukraine, surprisingly, might be more offensive minded than the English! Well maybe that is not too surprising. Against Sweden, the Ukraine played very open, attacking football. Might Blanc opt for two more defensive minded players in his midfield to break up any potential attacks and act as a platform for counters.

Or does Blanc stick with Malouda and his veteran stature?

I think Blanc will insert M'Vila in place of Malouda, go with a more muscular midfield - Cabaye, M'Vila and Diarra. Mimic what he did away to Bosnia. France was in no shortage of offense against England, but then again the Three Lions sat back. Ukraine appears to be more keen on going forward, France will need to break that and ensure that Shevchenko does not get fed opportunities from the midfield or wings...

France will get some chances on the break and in general, the interplay between Nasri and Ribery with Benzema higher up the pitch will cause problems for Ukraine. I do not see the co-hosts with the same discipline England showed in the first game.

Prediction - France 2 Ukraine 0

Benzema with a brace.

Allez les bleus!!!!

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