Friday, June 10, 2016

Get ready for a month of footy...second best tournament. Can Les Bleus do it for a third time?

1984 and 1998, two years that will mark French football. At this point I am sure you are all aware that those are the two of the years France hosted a major footy tournament on home soil...and won. France also hosted the last pre-war World Cup in 1938, which they did not win. In the modern era, this will be the third major footy tournament hosted in my home land. What can we expect from the hosts?

Let's first look at today's opening match versus Romania. Not the most difficult opening opponent, nor the easiest. The former iron curtain nation tends to pose a difficult enigma to most nations that face them. They tend to be well disciplined defensively and will ruthlessly punish you for any mistakes. I don't think they will make a run like they did in the 1994 World Cup where they were lead by their talisman - Hagi. Their Euro qualifying campaign was not a walk in the park and not in a group of death! They would end the qualifiers in second behind surprise North Ireland. But none of this matters as all the teams start with a 0-0-0 record.

Les Bleus head into this opening game on a relative high, after defeating Scotland in their last friendly. The 3-0 score line could have easily been 5-0 (Pogba hitting a post on a wonderful free kick and Gignac demonstrating why he plays in Mexico and not in Europe after completely botching a 1v1). France has had a decent run as of late. They have been scoring goals...but also conceding to many at the same time. Without their best defender - Varane - I fear this might be their down fall. But let's focus on the positives first.

  • The midfield is the iron of this side. Much like the glory days of old, when France had the Carre Magique of Tigana, Fernandes, Giresse and Platini (I still get emotional thinking of that midfield). Or the one anchored by a certain Zidane, that also had the likes of Deschamps, Vieira, Petit, Karembeu and Pires. This side has what appears to be a midfield that could elevate itself to these lofty highs. With Pogba and Matuidi, you have two of the best box to box midfielders in the world. Pogba can also either play deeper in a Pirlo role or play the true box to box role. The emergence of Kante for Leicester City could prove to be the key for France. While he is playing deeper than he does in the EPL, his engine and tireless work rate will be the key to providing cover for the back four. Deschamps has some options on the bench as well - Cabaye, Sissoko and Scheiderlin - he can rapidly add some muscle to his midfield.
  • An infusion of youth...speaking of midfield talent, there is some youth in that area as well with the emergence of Coman at Bayern Munich (I am still pissed that PSG let him leave). Coman could slot in as a winger or a deeper lying offensive midfielder. Not a bad option to
    Expect the former PSG player to have a say during the Euros
    play in a game. There is also Manchester United striker Martial who brings youth to the table. While neither player looks like they will start, both will play vital roles for Les Bleus.
  • In form players - Griezmann, Payet, Pogba, Matuidi to name a few have had solid domestic seasons for their clubs. All will be called upon if France is to go far in this tournament. While I will not place too much emphasis on "in form" players, need I remind everyone that going into the 2002 World Cup France had the leading goal scorers from the English, Italian and French domestic leagues - Henry, Trezeguet and Cisse - and mustered ZERO goals in those games. ZERO. But I rather have players in form than struggling.
Of course there are some negatives...well one...and it is a big one.
  • That back line is RUBBISH. Losing Varane made an area of concern a major fear. First, Evra still our first choice left back??? His best days are way way way behind him. He was washed up during the last World Cup! Argh. I know Deschamps has tried other options like Tremoulinas, Kurzawa, etc but how is the old man still running up and down the left side?? On the right...isn't much better. Sagna was a beast when he came over to Arsenal from Ligue 1. While he is still solid defensively his crosses are RUBBISH. Sorry that might be too strong. But I never mistake his crosses from a David Beckham special. What is more scary is the central pairings. Kos is solid but I fear he is always good for at least one brain fart every once in a while. Rami has had a good season in Spain. But lets face it, is the emergency back up to the emergency back up! At least with Varane I felt there was one out of the four that could keep his cool. Now I am not so sure. Lloris will have to on top of his game.
Okay so we headed into today's game with a lot of excitement and expectations. Looks like DD will go with his usual 4-3-3. Lloris: Evra, Rami, Kos, Sagna: Kante, Matuidi, Pogba: Griezmann, Giroud, Payet. I have been reading some calls for Martial to start, but what I think we are really seeing is Deschamps looking for flexibility. While Payet will start out on the right side, I think he will be looked upon to act as the defacto "10" probably slotting behind Griezmann and Giroud during the game. When he stays wide I look to Pogba to push higher on the pitch to support the attacking three. This will also place greater emphasis on Sagna making runs to give the French right width. Thru out the years, with Henry then Ribery and Valbuena and now Griezmann, the French attach has leaned heavily to the left (there is a political joke in there). So France continues to look for options to balance this attack, this is where a player like Coman can help. On defense I look for Kante and Matuidi to do much of the dirty work and try to alleviate any strain on the back 4. The question will be, who is the launching pad from the back for attacks? Kante isn't truly a distributor. Varane played that role before but who now? I look for Matuidi to be asked to drop deeper at times and fulfill this role.

Stade de France will be absolute bonkers today. I look for France to feed off this energy. Les Bleus start the tournament with a 3-1 victory.

Goals from Griezmann, Giroud and Martial.


Philip said...

Payet!!!! Still looks like the French team has some work to do. But usually the teams that win it are the ones that start slow. Cup is like a marathon not a sprint. We will see.

Anonymous said...

Boss where r u now......why this site is not updating....

Philip said...

We miss ya bud. Was hopeing to see some talk for the upcoming worldcup.