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Posted by Rabeeta Farooque on 06/13/2010

Let me preface this post by stating that I am a Les Bleus supporter from the bottom of my heart. I love my team even when they play the most boring football on the planet. So please understand how much it hurts me to say after watching yesterday's match against Uruguay, I could only ask myself one thing.

Did I really wait four years for this?

This is the World Cup, after all, so I suppose my answer should be yes. But I can't help thinking that yesterday's game was no different than so many other France matches from the past few years. I know that some disagree with my sentiments, but I did not enjoy the match (though the possibility of Henry scoring from a handball at any moment had me glued to the edge of my seat).

6 Uruguayan players and 2 French players...not a good ratio.

After watching France sink deeper and deeper into the malaise that has characterized the side since, well, forever, I had hoped that the excitement and pride of playing in the World Cup would spur the players out of their doldrums, but instead, it was as if this were the first time they were playing together as a team. Or, to be more precise, as a team of cardboard cutouts.

The simple solution would be to blame Domenech, whose mind numbing tactics yesterday could be used to treat insomnia. The experimental 4-3-3 that he deployed during the pre-tournament friendlies was aggressive and showed promise; however, it was too new, which is probably why Domenech decided not to use that formation against Uruguay. He reverted back to his beloved 4-2-3-1, a rigid setup that French fans have been forced to endure for years.

On paper, the lineup was potentially creative. With Lassana Diarra out, Abou Diaby was picked over Alou Diarra to pair with Jeremy Toulalan in midfield. In front of them was Yoann Gourcuff, and at his side, Sidney Govou and Franck Ribery. At the very top, Nicolas Anelka was the lone striker, a position that left him isolated from the rest of his teammates. Florent Malouda and Thierry Henry remained on the bench, the first for supposedly arguing with Domenech and the second for being too old.

Sadly, the actual outcome was anything but creative. Instead, it was the "usual" France performance - lots of possession but few goal scoring chances.

However, the outcome of the game could have been vastly different. If Gourcuff and Ribery had played at the same level of intensity as Diaby, France's midfield would have had more of an attacking impetus, and Anelka might have seen more of the ball. But there seems to be an unwritten rule that at any single moment, only one player can be in form. Yesterday, that was Diaby.

What really upsets me is not Domenech's original lineup - as I just pointed out, it could potentially have been good - but the fact that he didn't change his tactics when they failed to work. Perhaps Domenech was hoping that Uruguay would deploy a more attacking formation, but within the first 20 minutes of the match, it was obvious that they was going to sit back and defend. Domenech's failure in adapting to Uruguay's tactics is what the problem was. What he should have done was taken out one of the DMs and put in another attacker. Maybe that wouldn't have resulted in a goal, but at least there might have been more chances.

Domenech is "pleased" with France's performance. Really?

But while much of the fault lies with Domenech, it's also hard to ignore the players, many of whom are world class athletes who sometimes forget to show up. I know the manager plays a big role in maintaining team harmony, but what is the point of having so many experienced players on the squad if none of them can provide leadership? They are so busy squabbling amongst themselves and with Domenech that it's amazing they even have time for football.

Playing in the World Cup is the biggest privilege a footballer can ever have. That should be its own motivation. The players are old enough and experienced enough that they no longer need to rely solely on their coach to be in the correct mindset. Domenech might be a bad coach, but even he can't be responsible for the sluggish and careless behavior that was sometimes displayed on the pitch. Tactics, yes. Personal performance, no.

And just a quick word on Uruguay - they approached this game the correct way. They bunkered down in the first half and made sure not to give France any room. Uruguay seemed to have five or six players in their own box at all times and were effective in breaking up what little organization France had to their play. The end result was that France's main offensive weapons rarely posed a threat to Uruguay's goal. It was ugly to watch at times, but it's hard to argue with the end result. A point against a team that was a hairsbreadth from winning the last World Cup is nothing to scoff at. And let's not forget how good of a team they are - ranked 16th in the world, they are only seven places behind France.

Player comments:

Govou had the best chance of the night, but in typical fashion, he flubbed it. Ribery started out somewhat brightly, but his performance petered out in the second half. He couldn't maintain possession and had a harder time than usual in trying to get past opposing defenders. Anelka continued to be unconvincing as the lone striker. While his work rate was terrific, he didn't create any opportunities and was easily nullified by Uruguay.

Nor was there much attacking intent from either of the fullbacks. They did their jobs but could have done better. Both Sagna and Evra can write off yesterday's match as one to forget. In fact, I've already forgotten that they were even there. Lloris wasn't really tested except for Diego Forlan's attempt late in the first half. In central defense, neither Abidal nor Gallas looked entirely comfortable - the former because he's out of position and the latter because he's no longer at the top of his game.

In midfield, Gourcuff put in another lukewarm performance. While he had some nice touches and showed signs of the intelligent play he is capable of, for most of the 90 minutes, he was quiet and ineffective. He hasn't been at his best in the past few months, thanks to drama at both club and international level, but he needs to rise above that and play like he did earlier in the year. France could really use some of his creativity right now.

His partners in midfield put in better performances. Toulalan was great at doing what he does best - breaking up the midfield of the other team while staying under the radar. He had some nice tackles and made some good interceptions. He hardly went forward, but that's not his job, as his duties keep him near the back four. Diaby had a great match and is my pick as the best French player. He was pretty much France's main offensive threat and yet also pitched in defensively. Yesterday was one of Diaby's best matches in blue, and I hope I see more of him as the tournament progresses.


Posted by xero on 06/13/2010

Well said! At least one who knows what she is talking about. Perfectly to the point.

Keep it up!

Domenech/Govou/Gallas- footballing JOKES

Posted by Bill on 06/13/2010

Rabeeta paints an excessively black picture of the game and the players. For example, Sagna and Gallas had a good game. France has been struggling to build up a team. On friday they showed that they now were a pretty solid team in defense & midfield, which is the most important thing to achieve before anything else. They're on the right track. Effectiveness up front is the most common problem in football. Will they find a solution, maybe not, but let me remind you that France won in '98 without using its forwards.

Posted by Gilles on 06/13/2010

Oh yeah, Domenech was well chuffed. What else would you expect from a bloke who declared "we're improving" after losing to that great footballing country that is China.
I only saw two good performances from Toulalan (my MOTM) and Lloris (yes, a good goalkeeper is one that is focused 100% of the time even if he has only ONE save to made, the anti-Rob Green in a nutshell!)
Diaby, well he did some Diaby. For any good tackle, for any good interception, for any good shot..... you can be sure he'd spoil that by sending his next ball in row Z or give the ball away cheaply. He is so infuriating at times.
As for the others, let's say that it was a good thing we didn't face a top 10 country, 'cause nobody turned up!
Some will remind us we were slow starters in 2006, but so were we in 2002, so much so we never took off. I'm getting worried we might re-visit the latter.
We are owed a good performance, with a win a must.
Allez les Bleus bordel!

Posted by Gilles on 06/13/2010

There were 14.9 million French in front of their tv to follow the game, that is a very good score and shows that no matter what trouble we're in, we are still proud of our team and we'll keep on following it.
By the way, do you know why the French have a cock (the animal ;)) as a symbol and as a crest?
That's because it is the only animal that keeps singing and boasting when having two feet in the mud/shit!

A plus!

Posted by Gilles on 06/13/2010

One more post for today (sorry!)
You HAVE to listen to what follows, it is an old classic reprised by the ever excellent french imitator, Laurent Gerra. The lyrics have been changed for a certain Franck Ribery. Hilarious!

Posted by Jeff on 06/13/2010

I'm seeing things more through the same lens that Bill is. At this point, we're on track. We could easily derail, as we've done before, but I thought that was a decent performance (at least in defense and midfield) and a good point.

Some firepower up front, though, would be brilliant.

Posted by Rene on 06/13/2010

the problems are 1. Anelka doesn't play at chelsea as lone striker Drogba is the point he play more like a winger, Cisse will be my choice instead of him, 2, Govou almost never puts goals even in league 1, so put anelka as right winger, the rest for me were good enough to tried them on the next game, against mexico.

Posted by Steve on 06/13/2010

Franck Ribery is a joke, most overrated player ever. Its a joke that he was considered the jewel of French football, and that he is the brains of the team. Hahaha, his career is gonna deteoriate quickly soon after.

Posted by celestine on 06/14/2010

@steve,i totaly agreed wit u,wen u over rate a player it seems to get into his head eg osaze of nigeria.his overated in my country and dat ve realy put pressure on him dat he now plays self-football.selfish,no asist and he doesn't play wit d team again all becos he want 2 impress his die-hard fans.

Posted by Jimmy on 06/14/2010

Hey lets not forget he used to be a construction builder before he became a football player. When Lionel Messi was winning championships at the age of 20, Ribery was building homes. So even though hes 27, he has only been playing at the big level for 4 years, so his age fools you. I think the fame he got got to him and he has done some bad things because he never witnessed anything like that before because he came from a poor background. Cmon that would happen to anyone, even you if you were in that situation. I believe he will get his game and life back together and bounce back.

Posted by Paul on 06/14/2010

Henry should be playing, i think france has better chance with him. Im not saying without anelka, the both of them.

Posted by sc chan on 06/14/2010

all of france players play for the top clubs in europe, hence naturally all are very well paid. qualified for world cup, big bonuses!!! and the way they qualified, not just the handball incident,think when they defeated liechenstein by a single goal, they celebrated like they have beaten brazil!... why the show..? come the biggest stage, all footballers dreams, they gave such insipid performance with so many excuses??
domenech so highly paid and such screwed up job done, yet another high paying job is guaranteed.
am I the one smelling fishy here. when will we all realised we are taken for one big ride in all things football.?

Posted by rav on 06/14/2010

Team spirit is the biggest challenge if they are to progress to the next stage. Start playing for your team/country not for yourself! I think USA displayed a good team spirit and a strong will even though England were many times better than them on paper.

Posted by Rabeeta on 06/14/2010

I admit, I am a glass half empty sort of person, which is why I tend to be more pessimistic when it comes to my posts. And while I do agree France are showing signs of improvement, I really do think that France need to do much better if they want to even have a hope of qualifying.

The time for improvements is over. We need to see the real deal from now on, or else it'll be like Euro 2008 all over again.

Posted by Gilles on 06/15/2010

Don't feel too bad Rabeeta ;) You're not exactly the only one: a quick survey yesterday showed that 81% of the French supporters were not impressed with our first game.

Other little finds:

40% believe we will not qualify for the last 16 70% would challenge Domenech's choices
4% believe in WC victory (the fools!)
Only 16% believe in us reaching the 1/4 finals
21% feel "close" to their team, and the majority of the other 79% do not feel close "at all".

It's all here:

Posted by Gilles on 06/16/2010

Nothing to do with France this time, but Rabeeta won't mind as it is a sneak preview of the new Lyon shirts, yeepee! ;)
I thing the third could look quite right actually, I have to see it worn and with shorts and socks to definitely make my mind up. I like it though.Strangely.
The other two are forgettable.

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