Friday, November 14, 2014

France v Albania...Les Bleus lucky to escape with a draw.

Thankfully that game did not count towards France's qualification efforts...what a bland bland bland effort from Les Bleus. Albania, gasp, were the better team on the night. From the start it was apparent that the team Deschamps rolled out onto the pitch was only there physically and certainly not mentally. Anyways...the game was a friendly...end of the least they didn't lose.

The Good:
  • Lloris was world class. He was not at fault on the Albanian goal, a impeccably placed header after France failed to clear the corner kick. Otherwise the Tottenham keeper played a solid game, making some very good saves. One on a long range shot that came down the right flank. The save looked decent in real time, when you saw the replay one realizes what a difficult save it turned out to be as the ball was dancing all over the place and Lloris showed great skill in
    Big save that kept it a one goal deficit
    parrying the shot. He made another huge save on a defensive breakdown where he had to parry a bullet of a shot that was heading for the upper corner. The Spurs' keeper was also in command of his area. In a bland showing he was the one bright spot...and without him it could easily have been 3 or 2 goals to the Eastern Europeans. 
  • The insertion of Griezmann changed the game. Coming on late in the game, the Atletico Madrid winger quickly placed his stamp on the game. Bringing pace and some offensive punch that was otherwise absent from the French attack. His goal was a perfect two man game on the wing. He and the French right back, Jallet, played a give and go game that sprung Griezmann into the Albanian penalty area where he clinically finish. 
  • The Albanians. For a team I thought would pack it in, they took the game to the French. for some stretches they were outclassing the hosts. Ever dangerous on set pieces and smart with their counter attacking. Their fullbacks were dangerous down the flanks and their center backs a constant threat in the air on set pieces. The midfield did a good job collapsing to thwart any French offensive forays. They are a sneaky side that could find a way to the Euros, don't forget they already took 3 points off of the Portuguese.
The Bad:
  • The French 4-4-2...was abysmal.  I had written about this earlier but I was not convinced that the 2 striker formation would work. And I feel as if it didn't. The high line was clogged up by both Benzema and Lacazette operating in the same space. The midfield had no width. And the fullbacks were able to push up but  their offensive forays were too often "one and done" runs, which then left a lot of room behind them for Albania counters. Cabaye seemed to be asked to scramble to much to fill in the spaces left by the fullbacks. Les Bleus used to be able to run out  strikers, when those strikers were named Henry and Trezeguet...and they had a certain Zidane in the midfield. Henry was really more of a roaming striker, while Trez was a true #9. France do not have those players. I hope that DD rolled out this formation based on necessity. I certainly do not expect to see it again in the near future. 
  • Finishing...stop me if you have heard this before....Les Bleus just lack any clinical finishing, other than the Griezmann goal. Benzema had the 2-1 ball on his foot but inexplicably ballooned it from 10 yard out. Otherwise there just was not finishing threat. Concerning. 
The Ugly:
  • Lack of rhythm...Les Bleus looked like they were sleep walking, had zero consistency with they play. They never really controlled the match. Even when they were mounting some sustained threats to the Albanian goal, it did not feel like the French had their finger on the pulse of the game. They still looked like they were chasing the Albanians. Yes Les Bleus were missing the likes of Matuidi, but the apparent lack of consistency and ability to dictate the game was a bit disconcerting. If they play like this against Zlatan and his merry band from Sweden, it might get ugly.
Okay so France move on with a "point" from this game. Thankfully it does not mean anything, but there were more areas of concern than of good. Let us hope that their next match, against a much larger fish, is better than what we saw in Rennes.

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