Friday, July 04, 2014

Merci Les Bleus - 1/4 final exit no surprise

Sigh, once again France fall to West Germany on the football pitch. Unlike the last two occasions this one wasn't full of the pain and suffering! It was a rather bland game, especially for a 1/4 final match up.

The Good:
  • There is not much good from this game, but once the dust settles we will recognize that Les Bleus actually go to where this team deserved to go - the 1/4 finals. Yes France had an easy group and yes they had a relatively easy draw against Nigeria, but if the past showed us anything was that the team could easily succumb to the situation and melt. They didn't and they achieved what they were expected to. Anything more than a 1/4 final would have been pure gravy.
  • This pains me to say, but Low finally got the right formation for the Mannschaft. Finally moving Lahm out to the right fullback role gave the formation more width and attacking pace down that side - granted Lahm seemed to disappear at times defensively and somehow let Benzema waltz into the penalty area for a last minute chance. Partnering Schweinsteiger and Khedira as the two holding midfielders completely shut down Pogba - Matuidi - Cabaye from taking more control of the midfield. The partnership also provided cover for the likes of Lahm to push up as well as allowing Ozil and Muller to worry more about the offensive side of their game rather than having to drop back and defend. Which they don't do very well regardless.
  • Les Bleus are moving in the right direction. They got to the 1/4 finals. More importantly look at players that will make up their core for the foreseeable future -
    Not a bad pair to build around.
    Varane 21 years old, Sakho 24, Digne 20, Greizmann 23, Pogba 21, Schneiderlin 24, Sissoko 24, Cabella 24 - all under 25. Other players such as Benzema 26, Cabaye 28, Valbuena 29, Remy 27 and Giroud 27 are still on the right side of 30. This bodes well for the Euros in 2 years and as a core for the World Cup in Russia four years from now. The only starters that we will most likely not see again for France is Evra. All the others should showcase in France in 2 years for the Euros!
The Bad:
  • I have been harping on this for a while, but the French finishing was bad. Valbuena, Benzema even Varane had some decent chances. But whether it was a bad first touch, like Griezmann in the first half on a wonderful deep ball. Or just a lack of creativity when it came to the attacking third. There was also a lack of communications. Ball through to what looked like an on rushing Valbuena that Benzema takes, while he still created a good opportunity, it seemed Le Petit Velo would have put on a cracker had he been allowed to make his run. Just not enough practicality and clinical finishing for Les Bleus.
  • France seemed to sit back a little too much to start the game. They gave Germany lots of time on the ball and didn't put pressure on the back line. Les Bleus started to put some pressure on that back line late in the first half but there was not the type of urgency necessary in a 1/4 final match. This continued into late second half. Was it the heat? Maybe. Could be why these European nations seem to fade when playing in South America. Regardless, should have been more from Les Bleus in terms of urgency. 
 The Ugly:
  • First let me start off by saying that I think Deschamps is a large reason why France have turned things around. Compare this World Cup to what transpired 4 years ago. Even look at what happened during the Euros 2 years ago. This team is much more unified and moving in the right direction. DD deserves the credit for this and thankfully will be managing France for another 2 years until the Euros in France. However...Deschamps' management of this game was a bit ugly.  First - why did Sakho start? Whether or not you think he deserves to start - I know the Gooner questions his ability and I was nervous about having him start this game. This is compounded by the need to take out the Liverpool man for Koscielny in the second half. My stance is you should never have to make a like for like substitution on defense during a game - baring injury. Especially your center pairing. They are expected to last the game. If they have to be taken out for another central made a poor decision on your starting sheet. Second, I am not sure what was DD's substitution strategy. He brings on Remy in the 73rd minute for Cabaye. He had already brought
    Deserves a hug and a kiss for work with Les Bleus
    on the aforementioned Kos in the 71st minute. Why making an offensive change so late? Yes, Les Bleus had put together some sustained challenges to the German back line. So why not throw on a pacey wing players like Remy to build on this pressure? Throw him on in the 60th or 65th minute, let him get a good 30 minutes of run. Finally Deschamps brings on Giroud in the 85th minute! What? 5 minutes? He showed in the last play why he can be valuable, he can hold up the ball and hit smart passes to players filling the void - how Benzema got a free shot at the German goal. Maybe it would have been better to see this for more than 5 minutes...but this all stems, for me, from the Sakho inclusion in the starting line up. He hasn't been able to finish a full game all tournament. So why would it start today? Koscielny looked very good in Nigeria and looked comfortable next to Varane. Why not keep that pairing and not risk having to use a substitution for your center back? The fact DD also took out Valbuena for Giroud was a surprise for me. Had he taken out a Pogba or Matuidi I could see the reasoning, but taking out arguably your best creative player was a head scratcher. I do not think that DD was the reason why France lost this game, but Deschamps did not put them in the best position to mount a greater challenge to the Germans. Especially at the end of the game.
So France head home after a successful Brazilian adventure. Once the dust settles we will realize that this team achieved what they should have. A semi-final would have been nice, but that would have been pure bonus. France show they still need some maturity when it comes to finishing and being able to take their chances. As I stated there are may good things for Les Bleus moving forward, Deschamps staying on board will be a good thing and the team has some real talent in their ranks. They need to learn from this adventure and from this set back.

It will be interesting to see how the likes of Griezmann, Pogba, et al develop over the next two years before the Euros. Also, how will players like Lacazette, Grenier, Zouma, Rabiot and Thauvin might integrate into this side. Keep an eye on Rabiot and Thauvin, they might offer France that creative central player that they are lacking.

Good run from Les Bleus, difficult to lose to the Germans and the way they lost was bland which made it frustrating!

Allez les Bleus. 


Foreverzidane said...

First time reader of your blog got here via Lefooteenbleu site. Enjoyed reading your overview which 80% is exactly what I've mentioned on the previous site.
My only argument is that mentally France looked beaten from the start, Benzema lacked conviction and for a superstar it's a huge vulnerability. Also you totally ignored the one huge factor and that was the German Android Neuer, who single handedly saved their butt on numerous chances. I thought the weak point for France was Griezmann as well, not the physical player that Giroud is, and his lack of experience in a match of this magnitude clearly exposed. Ribery might have added that extra Fighting spirit but the exclusion of the cancer in the locker room Nasri didn't hurt this team. Future looks bright but much rather have a captain that is the commander of the midfield and not a keeper, I just don't understand that concept.
I share the same ambivalence regarding the substitutions and your correct assessment of choosing Sakho, again not because of our Gooner Biased angle.
Analyzing the goal, it could've called a foul on Hummels, which I seriously believe he had no clue of where that header was going, however the old cliche of just attck the net and something can happen and it did. No matter what, luck is an intangible that every team needs in a one time knock out round. I'm still a firm believer that Les Bleus could have beaten this average German team stricken with illness 2 out of 3 times and not at all inferior it's just their mental prowess that bites you in the ass every single time.
Still mighty proud of LesBleus and salute Deschamp for a wonderful world cup.

GFC said...

I agree about Benzema, he looked a little spent. He is the only player other than Lloris that played every minute of the World Cup. That is a lot of footy for the Real Madrid striker. Could DD have managed him better? Hindsight says yes. Maybe get him off the pitch for 30 minutes against Ecuador. Maybe even start Giroud against Ecuador? Easy to say after the fact.

With regards to Ribery, I do think that France missed a player of his talents in a game like the one against Germany. It will be interesting how he is integrated back into the team for the next two years heading to the Euros.

As for Neuer, well said, he was a huge factor for Germany. Saves on Valbuena and Benzema were huge, but Les Bleus just couldn't put together some sustained pressure on him.

For the goal, I agree, but that kind of pushing and clutching happens all the time. We have the ability to watch it over and over in slow motion. Very hard for officials to call it. Look back to 2006 and the goal Materazzi scored in the finals, he climbs all over Vieira to get to the ball, that too could be called as a foul. Alas neither were nor would be.

No doubt DD did a great job and the future does appear bright.

pierrot said...

nice analysis!

regarding speculation over integrating some of the youngsters over the next 4 years, i'm wondering about someone you didn't mention: m'vila. sounds like he's on his way to inter. if he could return to his form of a couple of years ago, or hopefully develop beyond, could be a very useful player. much more of a "destroyer" than debuchy, which is something the team currently lacks, i think.

pierrot said...

oops, meant "cabaye" of course, not debuchy

GFC said...

Interesting name, I was actually talking about M'Vila with a friend the other day. I absolutely hope he finds a way to be re-integrated into the side.

I agree his profile is much more of a midfield "destroyer" than any of the players DD lines up in the middle three. He would absolutely have a place on the squad, but as a starter? Maybe in certain situations. But just having the option would be very nice. Let us first see how he does in Serie A if that is where he ends up, I had heard a soft rumor that he could find his way to Arsenal as well. Regardless having him out of the Russian football league would be good for him and Les Bleus.