Friday, June 16, 2006

Failing France...

It would be fair to say that France are a pale shadow of the glorious WC 98 and Euro 2000 winning team.

A lacklustre qualifying campaign and a dull start to the Cup has raised fears that it is going to be a repeat of the 2002 debacle. But how have the mighty fallen so badly? The answer lies in their two best players, Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry.

Put bluntly, Zidane and Henry simply aren't compatible with each other. Henry is a striker whose essential need is space- space in which to run, to get past people and to get in on goal. Therefore it is imperitive that to get the best out of him, attacks are like rapier thrusts- quick and direct, so that when he gets the ball in the final third, the opposition is still struggling to regroup, giving him the opportunity to use his pace. Zidane, for all his attributes, tends to slow down the game. So by the time the ball reaches Henry, he is surrounded on all sides by the defence, and sees no way to go, no space in which to run.

There are two possible solutions to this problem: a) Drop Zidane or b) Drop Henry. If the former, then France need to play Vieira in the centre and Malouda on the right, and Trezeguet alongside Henry in a 4-4-2 formation so that they can break with pace and get the ball early to the Arsenal man. If the latter, then France need to play either Trezeguet as the lone striker or pair him up with Saha and drop Vieira.

The main problem is Raymond Domenech's indecision whether to build the team around Henry or Zidane. Quite clearly there is no space in the side for both of them. There is still time to take the bild step, but if Domenech persists with this line-up, it is a recipe for disaster... and instead of the chants of "Allez Les Blues", we could soon be hearing cries of "Sacre Bleau!" from the French fans.

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