Friday, February 28, 2014

Deschamps submits his list for Holland friendly...left side issue.

Deschamps calls up his roster for the upcoming friendly - do we have a problem with the left side? First of all the list:

GARDIENS : Lloris (Tottenham/ANG), Mandanda (Marseille), Ruffier (St-Etienne)
DEFENSEURS : Debuchy (Newcastle/ANG), Evra (Manchester United/ANG), Koscielny (Arsenal/ANG), Sagna (Arsenal/ANG), Sakho (Liverpool/ANG), Varane (Real/ESP), Mangala (FC Porto/POR), Digne (PSG)
MILIEUX : Matuidi (PSG), Pogba (Juventus/ITA), Sissoko (Newcastle/ANG), Grenier (Lyon), Cabaye (PSG), Mavuba (Lille)
ATTAQUANTS : Benzema (Real Madrid/ESP), Giroud (Arsenal/ANG), Payet (Marseille), Ribéry (Bayern Munich/ALL), Rémy (Newcastle/ANG), Griezmann (Real Sociedad/ESP), Valbuena (Marseille)
The surprise inclusions:
  • Digne: The PSG fullback gets his first senior cap after working his way up the youth ranks. Not too surprising a call up since his showing at the U20 World Cup demonstrated his ability and seemed to destined him to eventually take up the left side for France. What is a bit surprising, and somewhat of a concern, is that Deschamps
    Future starting left back?
    called him up in lieu of Clichy. Not that the Manchester City left back deserves a call up. But with Evra starting to show his decline for the other Manchester side, does Digne have a legitimate chance to go to Brazil? A chance to start? I think no on the latter but yes on the former. Slightly disconcerting when he gets more time playing for me in FMH 2014 rather than in real life for PSG.
  • Griezmann: This is really not a surprise. Once he served his suspension for his transgressions with the U21 national side it was evident that he would get a look from the national side. His recent showings with Real Sociedad against the giants of Barcelona clearly made is exclusion impossible. The one draw back for the youngster, is his spot on the left side is already occupied by...Ribery. It never hurts to have cover. Unfortunately for Griezmann, short of injury he can aspire to at best becoming Ribery's understudy.
There are some interesting names that have been left off the list. Manchester City's left back Clichy was left off. His recent showing wouldn't make anyone scratch their heads with this move. Going to Brazil might be getting further away from him. Assuming Evra would remain the #1 choice at left back, even if by default, there is a real potential that the likes of Digne or another player such as Monaco's Kurzawa being another option. Clichy's teammate - Nasri was also left off the list. He has just returned from injury with Manchester City. I am not sure Deschamps was 100% convinced he needed the mercurial player in his set up. Does he now have the built in excuse to leave him off? Finally, no Abidal. Not really a surprise. The old guard for France is struggling at Monaco. His inclusion, in my opinion, would be to bring some veteran presence and a player that Deschamps can trust in a multitude of roles. But I am not convinced those are valid...

Should be interesting to see how Deschamps rolls out his formation - does he go back to a 4-3-3, which worked with such success against Ukraine? I hope so. I am also curious as to what he does on the right side. Will Payet get his chance? Or back to a Ribery - Benzema - Valbuena line up? Also, does France have a potential issue at left back? Evra will most likely be default starter...but does he still deserve that privilege and can Digne handle the role?

This week training should be very interesting.

Allez les bleus.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Euro 2016 qualifying draw - much to do about nothing

With the Euro expanding to 24 teams for the next edition in France 2016, the qualifiers for the tournament seem to be a bit of a simple walk through for the major nations. The groups:
  • Groupe A : Pays-Bas, République tchèque, Lettonie, Turquie, Islande, Kazakhstan
  • Groupe B : Bosnie-Herzégovine, Belgique, Pays de Galles, Israël, Chypre, Andorre
  • Groupe C : Espagne, Ukraine, Biélorussie, Macédoine, Slovaquie, Luxembourg
  • Groupe D : Allemagne, Eire, Ecosse, Pologne, Géorgie, Gibraltar
  • Groupe E : Angleterre, Suisse, Estonie, Lituanie, Slovénie, San Marin
  • Groupe F : Grèce, Finlande, Irlande du Nord, Roumanie, îles Féroé,
  • Groupe G : Russie, Suède, Monténégro, Autriche, Moldavie, Liechtenstein
  • Groupe H : Italie, Croatie, Bulgarie, Norvège, Azerbaïdjan, Malte
  • Groupe I : France, Portugal, Danemark, Serbie, Arménie, Albanie
France is in Group I but since they are the host nation they are qualified directly, being placed in the group with 5 teams will guarantee them a series of friendlies as they prepare for the tournament.

The rules for the groups - the top 2 of each group go through and the best third placed team go through directly. The remaining 8 3rd place teams will play a home/away playoff for the last four spots. Which means...basically every major nation should be in France in 2 years. Looking over the groups I cannot imagine any of the heads of series not getting through. Russia maybe the only nation that has a potential threat from the likes of Sweden, Montenegro and Austria to finishing in the top two. What to watch will really be about which nation finishes second in each group. But even there I cannot imagine the likes of Turkey, Belgium, Ukraine, Poland, Switzerland, Romania, Sweden, Croatia or Denmark not being strong favorites to finishing in second...or at worst 3rd in which case they go to a playoff!

Bottom line...with 24 nations in the tournament the qualifiers, for the tournament seem to be nothing more than glorified friendlies for the big nations. Alas, how I miss the days when the Euro had 8 nations and qualifiers actually meant something. I know I know...I am harping on the "good old days."  

Monday, February 24, 2014

A new Zizou for Les Bleus

Interesting news coming out of Clairefontaine - Enzo Fernandez (Zidane) - has been called up and will be going to a FFF U19 camp. This might not sound like big news - was there ever really any question that the son of one of the greatest French players not play for his native land??? Reality is there was, and continues to be questions as to whether Enzo doesn't allow himself to be courted by the Spanish national team.

Enzo was born in France, but has spent a considerable amount of time in Spain since his legendary father played for Los Blancos. The young Zizou as been on the Real Madrid youth set up since 2004. There was a lot of debate as to where Enzo would end up. He has chosen playing for Les Bleus...for now. But before we go too crazy, let us pump the breaks
At least we know he has his father's temper
  on this.

There is little argument that Zidane is considered one of the greatest, maybe the greatest player for France (I actually would slot him second behind Platini and in front of Kopa). And one of the greatest players of all time (off the top of my head the top 5 all time players - Pele, Maradonna, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Puskas....throw in Yashin, have to pick a GK!) I cannot imagine the pressure that the young Enzo faces - probably why he goes by Enzo Fernandez (mother's maiden name) rather than Zidane. The fact he is playing for the youth set up for Real Madrid is already a major achievement, the fact he has been called up for the Spanish U15 and now the France U19 is another amazing achievement...but that is a far far far cry from achieving the heights his father reached.

Youth set ups and international teams churn through young talent on a regular basis, you might argue it is a bit of a meat grinder - actually a real meat grinder. The percentage of those players that a)are able to play football professionally to put food on the table is very small b)the honor of being able to play for your nation's A side is even smaller. I remember watching a show about the Nantes youth set up, they interviewed Zidane for some segments where he said, and I paraphrase: "Of all the players at the Cannes youth academy that started with me, I was the only one to go on to play professionally." Don't forget that the Cannes youth set up is one of the best in France - so already pulling in the cream of the crop into the set up. Bottom line, Enzo has all the genes and pedigree to succeed. He is already on a path that sets him up to succeed. But that is not any stretch of the imagination. It is a nice news story.

But let's not get overly excited, let's not start calling for him to be called up for the Brazil World Cup and let's not expect that he will achieve what his father did. He needs to be allowed to be his player, develop to the level he can achieve. Of course that is easier said than done. Over-hyped youth players come and go - remember a certain Freddy Adu? Let us pump the brakes on Enzo. Wish him the best, and let him achieve what he can, he has enough pressure having the Zidane name...