Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Les Bleus fall to Espana...but not all is lost

A loss is a loss, whether done with fighting with honor or by just giving up. France did the latter when they lost to Spain in the Euros 2-0, they did so with the former on Tuesday. Unfortunately in both cases, France lost. At least in this situation not all is over for Les Bleus.

The Good:
  • France fought hard and created some chances that they could have done better with.  I realize that this and $4 gets you a venti coffee at Starbucks. But I am focused on the good aspect, France showed some fight. France didn't just sit back and let the Spanish attack. They took chances when it made sense and had some legitimate opportunities.
  • Valbuena has become the new "patron" for the French offense. The OM midfielder proved once again that he is the lynchpin of the attack. Right from the get go he demonstrated his willingness to take offensive chances: attempting an audacious bicycle kick from 20 meters out. Le Petit Velo was all over the pitch, not really holding his right side, but created havoc whenever he could. It was his cheeky long ball that sprung Ribery for a 1v1 against Valdes that the Barcelona keeper did well to keep out of his goal. Les Bleus have been struggling to find who could assume the role of the
    Outplayed his counterpart - Alonso would appear that Valbuena might be that player.
  • The youngsters - Varane and Pogba. I realize the Juventus midfielder picked up 2 yellow cards within minutes of one another for a subsequent red. That not withstanding, it appeared that both were not overwhelmed by the moment. Varane played a solid game and almost had the equalizer late. While Pogba was an absolute beast. He was strong in his tackles, even allowed himself to take the ball past three Spanish players in the first half. Dare I say he looked like Pat Vieira on that play? Yes the second booking was harsh and maybe he should have been more aware of the situation. But he (hopefully) will learn from this experience as will Varane. The future for these two youngsters is bright, France might have some solid options right down the spine. Hey when M'Vila comes back (assuming he is still on form!) France could have a powerful midfield duo of Pogba and M'Vila.
The Bad:
  • French finishing...again. France didn't score because they didn't create was because they could not FINISH. Jallet made a fabulous run, from a Valbuena feed, in the first half. The PSG back laid off a perfect pass to an on rushing Benzema, who had position on his defender. Rather than taking a touch, one timed it...into Row ZZ. Ribery, on another wonderful Valbuena pass, finds himself 1v1, his first touch alludes him and rather than finishing what he would do 9 out of 10 times, he sees Valdes save his attempt. Matuidi had a clean look from within the 18 and tried to guide it into the net. Evra gets on the end of a free kick but cannot put pace on it. Varane has the 1-1 ball drop to his feet but cannot get his shot off fast enough. Les Bleus needed
    A bit harsh...good example of Spanish diving as well
    to finish one of these chances...
  • Pogba's red card. The second yellow card, in my mind, was harsh. I think that Xavi "sold" the severity of the foul. I guess that if you really scrutinize the play, Pogba did go in studs "high." But it felt like a harsh call by the official. Of course Pogba needs to also be aware that he was on a yellow more savvier with your challenges.
  • Jallet's defensive error. I would give the PSG right back a decent rating for the game. He defended well overall and was very active pushing up the pitch to support the attack. Something he had to do to ensure the right flank wasn't ignored - because no surprise, Valbuena roamed freely away from the right. However, on the goal it was Jallet's poor angle that allowed the play to break down. Rather than play the space he attempted to play the ball which was played just over the top, this mistake forced Varane to come over and shut down Monreal who was able to cross and find Pedro streaking in. Had Jallet taken a better route, he could have checked Monreal's run and who knows...
The Ugly:
  • What is wrong with Benzema?? His goalless streak for France is getting slightly ridiculous. He worked hard during the match, had some nice actions but he clearly is pressing. The "one timer" he launched from a tasty pass from Jallet exemplified in form Benzema might have taken a touch and opened up his angles. France need to get their striker in form and soon. Otherwise this will get super ugly.
  • Deschamps' substitution...or lack thereof. The first substitution made sense and was aggressive - bringing on Menez for Cabaye, adding some width and offensive punch. But after that...what was DD doing? I realize his substitution strategy was thrown off with Pogba's red card. But you are down a goal!! Taking off Benzema for Sissoko? Your striker for a defensive minded midfielder? When you had the likes of Remy, Giroud and Gomis on your bench! Finally...Giroud finally comes on with...injury time left. What??? Difficult to comprehend when France was chasing the equalizer. 
  • Spanish flopping, diving and embellishing....Okay I realize that I might be bitter and annoyed. But watching the likes of Xavi, Pedro et al flop all over the place is getting tired. Even Cesc gets into the game and starts with the antics. So annoying.
So France drop to second place in the group, 1 point behind La Roja. With 3 games to go, France are close to guaranteed to qualify for the home/away playoff...likely opponents could be - Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary or Albania. All sides that France should be able to handle, although I would not be happy to have to face Croatia in a home and away series. Of course if Spain drop any points, France could sneak back into first place. But this is unlikely, Les Bleus have two road matches and finish at home against Finland. While Spain will be at home for 2 of their last 3 matches. The likely hood that France win their last three games and Spain draws one of their last three is unlikely.


Yet going into these qualifiers, most pundits expected France to finish second. The fact that Les Bleus have the possibility of finishing first in this group, this late, is a positive.

Les Bleus need to focus on their next game. Find victories. Hope that some how Spain slips.

Allez les Bleus.


ChrisB said...

As always, great recap.
Since we've got the NCAA tourney going on here in the US, I think Spain has become Duke of world football.
A good team that gets by with help from the reffs. 22 fouls to 8?! Yeah, I'm not buying it.

GFC said...

Great analogy! I think you are spot on that Spain, much like Duke, seems to have the referees a bit swayed by them.

Granted, when you maintain possession like they do you have more time to get fouled! But with the likes of Busquets, Pedro, Xavi and the rest of the Spanish diving team selling every foul it gets a little bit frustrating.

I did like the fact France was not afraid to tackle hard and play physical at times, granted it cost Pogba a red, but I also think if you play a team like Spain physical it throws them off. You just need a referee to recognize their embellishments.

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