Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Les Bleus to line up with familiar faces...except for two key positions.

Deschamps will most likely roll out his usual 4-2-3-1 today in Belgium. And to no real surprise the faces that will occupy those spots are for the most part the ones we are used to seeing. The expected starting line up:

Lloris - Sagna, Koscielny, Abidal, Clichy - Guilavogui, Kondogbia - Payet, Valbuena, Ribéry - Benzema

No surprise in goal nor across the back 4. As it was rumored, the Monaco defender Abidal will be slotted at central defense. Clearly Deschamps is still trying to figure out who will provide cover or even potentially be the starter next to Kos. I have to assume that Varane will get the nod, or at least be the club house leader for the role once he is fully operational. Clichy and Sagna are back on the flanks over Debuchy and Evra. I have no issue at left back, but at right back I still have my doubts of Sagna's offensive contributions.

Will we ever see this again?
Up front it looks much the same as it has for a while: Ribery out on the left, Valbuena now in the center pulling the strings and Payet the latest right winger to be given another chance to take ownership of that spot. It will be interesting to see if Nasri is given time in that channel and what happens when Menez is back to full form. Up front is wonder kid Benzema. Yes that was tongue in cheek. I need not remind readers of how many minutes, games, months it has been since France's #1 striker has netted a goal. But trust me it has been a LONG time (1082 minutes...might as well be another life time ago). We keep saying it each time France rolls out their Real Madrid striker - "will this be the game he breaks back into form?" I am tired of asking this question and frankly tired of waiting for it to happen. I know strikers can be temperamental but this has gotten to a level of absurdity. I might even start calling Benzema a bust.

Of course in the holding midfield role we will see two newbies - Guilavogui (who did get his first cap away to Brazil) and Kondogbia. These two new members of the national team are getting a run out in large part due to the suspensions of Pogba, Matuidi and Cabaye for the next qualifier. Having said that, I think this is a good chance to see some of the depth France has at this position. Let us not forget that Capoue, Sissoko and Mavuba are also available, not bad options. I will be interested to see how the first of the U20 World Cup champions, yes Pogba has played for the senior squad already but he wasn't a WC Champ at the time, assimilates into the senior squad. One thing France have plenty of depth is in the holding midfield role, with Guilavogui and Kondogbia starting we are just seeing more of these riches on display. Now if we could only trade a few of these assets for a world class striker.

The Belgium Pele
So will this line up succeed against an up and coming Diables Rouge side? Belgium is starting to develop a serious roster of talent, reminds me of the teams I used to watch in the late 80s that were built around Scifo and went all the way to a 4th place finish at the Mexico World Cup in 1986. This version has Hazard and Fellaini in their midfield but also a solid
defense built around Kompany and some young talent at striker in Mirallas and Lukaku. This is a side that France could very well have to play in the qualifier play in round. Something I would not look forward to. Unfortunately for Les Bleus, I just do not see a way out of their recent malaise.  I do not see a solution up front when it comes to scoring goals. I am not worried about Ribery or Valbuena, but the right wing remains a problem and we might as well play with Nasri as the fake #9 like Spain does because he has a much better chance of scoring than does Benzema. I am concerned with our center backs - not sure I want to see Abidal there, just do not feel that his is best position. The two newbies in the holding spots will be something to watch. I doubt either will be overwhelmed by the situation but this is their first international match together and having to face the likes of Hazard is no easy task.

Prediction - the poor run of late continues. Les Blues fall to Les Diables Rouge

Belgium 2 - France 1...alas

Allez les Bleus

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