Monday, May 26, 2014

First test for Les Bleus - midfield dry run

Now that we have dispensed with the formalities of ending the domestic seasons and deciding the European title, we can focus in on this small event called the World Cup. Many of the national sides will start to run through some of their friendly matches ahead of the June kick off for the World Cup. France will face their first test tomorrow against Norway.

According to some reports we may already know the starting eleven for Les Bleus:

Ruffier - Debuchy, Koscielny, Sakho, Evra - Cabaye, Matuidi, Pogba - Valbuena, Giroud, Griezmann

No surprises in this line up. Lloris will most likely get one start, but after a long season with Spurs deserves some down time. Ribery has a slight knock on his back and Benzema just finished up with Real Madrid, and has a slight groin injury.  Otherwise the the starting 11 that DD is rolling out might be the one you will see to open against Honduras on June 15 (with a healthy Ribery and Benzema in place of Griezmann and Giroud). A few things to watch for:

  • Center backs - is the is the pairing we should expect for the tournament? DD has tinkered with this for many matches. Mangala showed well in the last friendly against Holland and the young Real Madrid center back Varane has also showcased for DD. The former has a slight knock and the later is late to camp due to the Champion League finals so the pairing of Kos - Sakho might have been more out of necessity. But the former PSG and current Liverpool player will also carry the armband for France. Might be an indicator of what DD thinks of Sakho.
  • Midfield trident - no surprise to see the starting three of Cabaye, Matuidi and Pogba. The question becomes, who is behind them in the pecking order? It will be interesting to see which players come on for those spots later on during the game. Look for
    Second showing for the youngster
    Mavuba and Sissoko to get some time tomorrow as well.
  • How will Griezmann do with his second match for Les Bleus? He was okay against Holland, appeared a little timid at times. With his second go around, and now that he knows he is on the plane to Brazil, will he be more at ease and allow his talents to take over? It will also be interesting to see if during one of the other friendly matches if DD tries to play both Griezmann and Ribery on the pitch together. Giving them some time on the field in case the situation arises that DD needs to have them both out there to chase a goal.
I am not sure how much we will be able to read from this game. Norway tends to be a solid defensive unit, but not much attacking creativity. As with many of these friendlies I would not expect much. Teams, especially the ones heading to Brazil, are going to want to test some pairings and formations. See how players work together. But the most important will be avoid injuries! Certainly want to avoid what happened to Cisse prior to the 2006 World Cup (sad to say but his pace off the bench might have a made a difference in that tournament).

I expect a drab 1-1 draw. Goal from Giroud.

Allez Les Bleus!!!

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