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Les Bleus: L'equipe de France
Posted 05 June 2012 - 09:06 PM
France has been a team that many have suggested that at 10/1 odds are the best value for money amongst the contenders. With a 4-0 victory over Estonia in their final friendly before the Euro, Les Bleus carry a 21 game unbeaten streak coming into the tournament. The mood, expectation, and anticipation surrounding this team are far different from the disgust that surrounded the 2010 World Cup squad that was mired by the boycott following Anelka's dismissal from the team.
The question is what has changed?
This team has many new faces, and it represents a new opportunity for France to perform well again on the continental stage. There are some old faces, but gone are the legends like Henry, Zidane, and Vieira. The attacking for the Euro will depend on Karima Benzema, Franck Ribéry, Samir Nasri. The defense may depend more on injury and team selection by Blanc. M'Vila hurt his ankle in the early minutes against Serbia and Diarra hurt his knee today. Blanc only has three center backs in his squad and seems intent on keeping his best center back on the bench (Koscielny). Debuchy has slotted as the right back in Sagna's absence and Evra has held his place at left back, despite competition from Gaël Clichy. Hugo Lloris, as captain of the squad, remains the fixture in net. The center back and left back decisions will be interesting fodder when the matches arrive.
With England's injuries, they should be the clear favorite to win their group.
Karim Benzema will lead the charge as he appears to be the first choice striker. While he's been somewhat of an enigma on the national side, he had his most successful club season since 2007-2008, scoring 32 goals and assisting 15 for Real Madrid. He was able to net two goals against Estonia, one of them was this remarkable curler (apologies for the deaf spanish):
Blanc has shown an aversion thus far from playing both Benzema and Olivier Giroud, the other in form striker, together. Giroud had an incredible season for Montpellier who he lead to a Ligue 1 title. He showed an incredible ruthlessness in front of net while showing a great propensity to lay off passes to teammates (as he showed on his assist to Ménez today). If he gets a chance to play, he should be a hot commodity following the Euro:
If Giroud does not play, it could be seen as a good sign because it would mean that Benzema is doing something right. Both guys can play the French game though.
Clearly, the success of France on the whole lies largely with Franck Ribéry. He is the top talent that France has and seems to have a good rapport with Benzema and Nasri. For France to be at its best, Ribéry will need to have a big impact. The other key player in the midfield appears to be Nasri. I don't really have anything to say about Nasri. He's a good player, but he's not a player that can carry a team on his own. His most brilliant moments at Arsenal were when he played on the wing in one on one situations. I think he'd be much better suited on the wing opposite Ribéry with Valbuena in the middle, but Blanc has him in the middle. Nasri is more Marseille streetballer than a La Masia puppeteer IMO (I said this when he played for Arsenal and demanded to play in the middle).
As I said, Valbuena should be one of the first attacking options off of the bench along with Newcastle's Ben Afra and Sochaux's Marvin Martin. I think attacking-wise, France might have the best selection and depth this side of Spain. So if a player like Nasri isn't working, Blanc can always bring in one of these players.
In the holding role, Yann M'Vila should be the starter so long as his ankle holds up. His positioning is always perfect in the role. Alou Diarra is the other option, but he hurt his knee today and could be a question as well. Koscielny cameo'd in the role today, but while he has good positioning and is a fantastic tackler, Laurent isn't a good enough passer to play in the holding role. With France sure to dominate possession in the Group Stage, the holding role might not be as big a concern as M'Vila recovers from his sprained ankle.
The defense could be the big question. Bacary Sagna is out with a broken leg which means the hardly capped Mathieu Debuchy starts at right back. On the other side, Patrice Evra has remained the first choice, though his struggles might necessitate Blanc to bring on Gaël Clichy. The center back situation is interesting. Blanc only has three in his squad and he seems to be mystically enamored with Philippe Mexès, who I do not rate very highly. Without Koscielny in the squad, this French defense could be as vulnerable as some of the other contenders like Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands. With Koscielny, they are a much more solid team. Lloris is as solid a keeper as they come.
This team is well built to make a deep run, but that might depend on match ups and luck. They should win their group. Their knockout stage opponent could be a huge obstacle though. Foreseeably, they will either face the world champions, Spain, their old rival, Italy, or possibly a dark horse Ireland/Croatia. If they advance beyond that, they have as good a chance as anyone. France's squad is as talented as any other contender. Their 21 game unbeaten streak is no anomaly. They are legit.
Posted 07 June 2012 - 10:28 PM
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