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Fragile France continue to falter

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Paul Fletcher | 02:12 UK time, Saturday, 12 June 2010

World Cup 2010: Cape Town

As far as forgettable World Cup group games are concerned, France's bore draw with Uruguay is right up there.

In fact, I'd love to hear if you think there are many that would rank below it.

We ought not to overlook the fact that for Uruguay it was a tricky first match against the 2006 finalists from which they took a potentially very valuable point.

As Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez put it: "Considering France's history and that some of their players reached the final in Germany, and with their greater financial resources, then we have to face reality and say that a draw is not a bad result."

But what Friday's match most definitely did do was make a mockery of a recent claim by France skipper Patrice Evra that his team boast the best players in the world in just about every position.

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World Cup guide - France

Not at Green Point in Cape Town they didn't. They looked like a group of strangers still working their way through some painful introductions.

Much has been made of the recent change of system by coach Raymond Domenech.

France crashed out at the group stage at Euro 2008 and scraped through World Cup qualifying thanks to Thierry Henry's handball in the play-off against the Republic of Ireland.

During that time the 58-year-old infuriated many France supporters by continuing to play two holding players in Lyon's Jeremy Toulalan and Real Madrid's Lassana Diarra in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

But Diarra is injured and the coach of Les Bleus finally left Toulalan to do the job on his own, adopting a 4-3-3 system for the friendly against Costa Rica on 26 May and the two subsequent World Cup warm-up games.

fletchblog595.jpg Raymond Domenech took charge of the France national side in 2004. Photo: AP.

Many players claimed they liked the new more aggressive formation even if the eve of tournament results, including a defeat against China, did not suggest so.

On Friday evening, Domenech dropped Florent Malouda for Abou Diaby. Many thought the coach had reverted to type, although I personally felt that the advanced position frequently occupied by Diaby ensured their shape flirted between the two systems.

For his part, the Les Bleus boss argued that all the talk of formation was not important, what really mattered was how you play the game.

If this is the case then he has cause to be very concerned.

France were ponderous and often bereft of ideas against Uruguay, struggling to break down La Celeste's defensive formation that sees them deploy three central defenders with two wing-backs supplying the width from slightly more advanced positions.

Of particular concern must be the role of lone striker Nicolas Anelka. He looked completely lost, taking up increasingly deep positions to try force his way into the contest.

France were too slow to move the ball from defence to attack. I am not talking about long ball stuff here, but the sort of swift and precise passing that can stretch a defence or catch them holding a high line.

However, this did not happen, so there were no through balls played in behind the Uruguay defence for Anelka to run on to with his clever movement and precise timing.

It was also painful to see the Chelsea striker and Sidney Govou frequently occupying the same space, making the defensive task much easier for their opponents. It was an evening of frustration.

Franck Ribery was an occasional threat down the left-hand side and we saw brief glimpses of his ability to link with Evra and Diaby, but these were all too fleeting.

And there was precious little to suggest that Bordeaux playmaker Yoann Gourcuff will have a big impact on this tournament. The son of respected coach Christian Gourcuff, the 23-year-old is regarded as a likeable and intelligent figure, as well as a possible heir apparent to Zinedine Zidane.

He has a superb passing range, excellent dead-ball skills and a speed of thought that compensates for a lack of pace - but it has also been suggested that he is not comfortable in the current set-up and has an uneasy relationship with some senior players upset at the generous press he receives in France.

Indeed, rumours that all is not well in the French camp seems to be a part of daily life for Les Bleus these days.

Defender William Gallas is not speaking to the media during the World Cup after being overlooked for the captaincy, while it was reported by French newspaper L'Equipe that Malouda, dropped on Friday, had a training ground disagreement with Domenech.

It is an open secret in France that the coach, who succeeded Jacques Santini after Euro 2004, has a difficult relationship with many in his squad.

He has admitted that astrology can influence his team selection and used an interview in the immediate aftermath of his team's elimination from Euro 2008 to propose to his fiancée, a gesture that was not well received back home.

Domenech stands down after the tournament to be replaced by former France central defender Laurent Blanc - and unless something dramatic happens it seems likely that his tenure will end on a disappointing note.

His team face Mexico and South Africa in their remaining group games and may well qualify for the round of 16, but there is little evidence to suggest they will repeat their exploits of 2006, when Zidane came out of international retirement to such devastating effect.

Evra recently stated that France were not heading to South Africa to go on safari - but at the moment that might be the only big game experience his team have in South Africa.

You can follow me throughout the World Cup at


  • Comment number 1.

    If anything came out of that bore draw, it was the fact the Ribery was shocking, and not worth the 60 million that Bayern were holding out for him.
    I am sure that France can play better,but they are now under extreme pressure to win their next game .

  • Comment number 2.

    What are the odds of France not getting past the group stage?

  • Comment number 3.

    France were far from brilliant. But I think you are over-stating their ineptness a little.

    There were flashes - the last 5 minutes for example - of a more coherent and threatening team. And there were moments in the middle of the first half where they looked to have a plan.

    But it's true that they have always looked shaky without Zidane. And nothing seems to have changed in that respect. Ribery was poor. Gourcuff could yet prove his critics wrong. He looked more threatening.

    France should make the last 16. An outside chance of the last 8. On the other hand they might implode and go out from the groups. In any case they look far from being likely winners.

  • Comment number 4.

    "Les Miserables" and your final paragraph - quality lines!

    Hopefully Mexico will beat France.

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with most of your comments, however a major point i'd like to add,
    domenech obviously does'nt want to win it, 2 reasons. 1- he did'nt pick benzema or nasri, (2 quality players). and 2- GOVOU! has got to be the worst player for france ever!. The silver lining is that it,s good news for England, if we do meet them in the knockout stages. 1 last thing, R.Domenech has'nt got a tactical clue, as for those who may say he got them to the finals last year, that was due to zidanes brilliance more than domenechs tactics.

  • Comment number 6.

    While it was clear France weren't at the races, and before the tournament even started they were my tip to be the surprise failures to get out of the group stages, let's be clear that Uruguay aren't a bad side, and what they did well was to close down the space.

    Against Mexico, and South Africa, they may have more space to play the quick football being looked for. Judging by the Mexico v South Africa game, France could have plenty of chances, and unlike Mexico, whose front three boasts Vela, dos Santos and Franco, France have people like Anelka who can actually put the ball in the net.

    This could have been France's toughest game.

  • Comment number 7.

    A good game of football can be a pleasure to watch. However, the pleasure is completely ruined if there is a constant sound of bees buzzing loudly. Is there anything that can be controlled in this matter? If not, for me anyway, goodbye World Cup.

  • Comment number 8.

    @ SADBavaria

    A good game of football can be a pleasure to watch. However, the pleasure is completely ruined if there is a constant sound of bees buzzing loudly. Is there anything that can be controlled in this matter? If not, for me anyway, goodbye World Cup.


    Goodbye to you then, Mr Misery.

    Up the Vuvuzelas!

  • Comment number 9.

    france's team on paper have the potential to be right up there with the favourites, however they just have an awful coach, who is clueless. How has he been in charge for 6 years? He makes france half the team they should be. If England had a coach like domenech(spelling?) the media would be going crazy.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ah guys, but remember in 2006 France opened with a bore 0-0 draw with Switzerland, a disappointing 1-1 draw with South Korea before scraping through win a final group game victory over Togo. They then went on to reach the finals.

    There is a long way to go for France yet. A draw when the other teams in the group have also drawn is hardly a disastrous result.

  • Comment number 11.

    I could barely get past the first half. A real yawn fest which is sadly what I suspected before the game, but hoped to be proved wrong. I still rub my eyes when I see that France made it to the last world cup final. Every time I see footage of it I almost want to say, "how did they get there?"
    Literally it was down to ZiZu's one man crusade. Domenech hasn't a clue about how to use the talent at his disposal, though in wendyball, as in rugby, the French are notorious for 'not turning up'.
    Fair bet to see them do a repeat of 2002 and fail to make it past the group stage.

  • Comment number 12.

    A lot of people seem quick to forget. Most boring match ever?

    How about every match they played in 2002?

    Didn't score a single goal.

    Was the most shocking performance I've seen in a world cup by a team in my lifetime. Countries like Iran included!

  • Comment number 13.

    Evra recently stated that France were not heading to South Africa to go on safari - but at the moment that might be the only big game experience his team have in South Africa.


  • Comment number 14.

    i think all this france were rubbish / that was a terrible game stuff is way over the top. i quite enjoyed the game and thought it was interesting tactically. uruguay looked like a team who fancied a point but could have got more, france lumbered into the tournament a little, its true, but overall i thought they looked compact, passed the ball well at times and just lacked that definition in the final third. its always a joy to watch ribery and i will be surprised if thee arent more cagey but watchable games from the bigger sides to open the group stages.

  • Comment number 15.

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  • Comment number 16.

    A dull game and an uninspired performance from Les Bleus. However as has been mentioned, Uraguay aren't exactly useless and I don't think a draw here shocked anyone.

    Its only the first game after all, how many times have we seen a team start poorly only to have a good tournament, France certainly have the quality in their ranks though I agree that their manager doesn't have the best tactical nouse, how Gouvu remained on the pitch that long is beyond me.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think people are overstating how poor France were. True, none of the other bigger teams are going to fear the French after that display, but they still managed to have the better of the possesion, and overall, they were the ones controlling the flow of the game. Had Anelka and Forlan switched teams for this match, I think the result would have been a lot different.

    The thing that shocked me about France, and which I'm suprised no-one else has mentioned yet, is how cynicly they played.
    Even when they where clearly outplaying their opponents, they were far too ready to resort to sly fouls, going down suprisingly easily under fairly soft challenges and so on.

    After the handball against Ireland, this match has me half-way convinced that this is their new approach to football post-Zidane, rely on individual flashes of brilliance and cheating to get them through. After all, they may have great players, but they certainly don't have a great team.

  • Comment number 18.

    @ #3, you must have been watching a different last five minutes to me. France had a man extra and consistently managed to pick out noone in the box or hit the first man with their crosses.

    France were pretty bad, Diaby is the only player who can hold his head high, he was at the centre of every good French move. Their defending was so cynical and Evra probably should have gone before Lodeiro for a poor late tackle on Suarez.

    If Suarez hadn't been so off-colour or Forlan thought to look up then Uruguay could have won that game comfortably. I'm surprised it took them so long to bring Suarez off and I thought that Cavani would have been a better player to have brought on.

  • Comment number 19.

    The French were poor but not awful. Ribery was worth watching and Madouna was pretty impressive, but didn't have enough time on to really impact the game.

    As for the game, it gets much worse than that. Surely the worst World Cup game of all time is Germany-Austria in 1982?

  • Comment number 20.

    Who says France have to play well in the group stages? Italy have spent a lifetime lumbering through the group stages to come good when it matters. It's perfectly possible for France too. I really hope not, but it wouldn't surprise me.

    Ps seeing henry appeal for that handball made me want to throw the glass of beer I had at the TV! I'm Irish if havn't guessed :)

  • Comment number 21.

    Surely Ribery is the most over-rated player in world football!?!?

    That second half of his was an absolute stinker of epic proportions. How many times did he either immediately give the ball away with a loose pass or run head-down into a melee of Urugyan players!?

    Quite how Govou, an absolute passenger for the entire second half, managed to stay on the pitch so long as well is totally beyond me.

    Awful, awful game. The second half resembled a 2nd division relegation scrap the quality was so poor.

    If England DO come up against France at some point, on this evidence we should more than be able to turn them over!

  • Comment number 22.

    I wouldn't be bothered by that display last night except for the fact that I've got France in the work sweep. No chance of any cash at all. There cannot be a worse major team in the tournament.

  • Comment number 23.

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  • Comment number 24.

    i quite disagree with you on some aspects, and also agree on some:

    the french played like strangers yesterday, like they had just met each other for the first time in their lives, no running of the ball to create space for each other, no support play, and whenever the attackers had the ball, they seem to want to do everything on their own individually, especially Anelka and Ribery (selfish sods)......makes you wonder what their Training Camp was all about then?

    i was quite shocked Ribery played the whole 90 because he was quite woeful, and i still think Govou should not have started, when there are sharper younger strikers on the bench.

    BUT then, on the strength of their play last night, uruguay are still not pushovers for any european team in this tournament, despite their poor qualification: these guys showed they can surely defend, as they did last night.

    i think the french will get better with the coming games, but see them going out in the Quarters

  • Comment number 25.

    #20 Fraggle - He didn't protest much when it wasn't given though :P
    Really dull game, Uruguay should have scored with Forlan but early on Govou should have scored... I'm glad I didn't pay to watch that. Diaby was my man of the match, the only French player (besides Sagna who didn't play as well) who looked remotely interested.

  • Comment number 26.

    One of the worst games I have ever seen! But to answer your question, the ukraine switzerland game from the last world cup was duller. To be fair to Domenach, he got the team to the final last time ( they did have zidane in the team though) and that's no small achievement. But I think he must go soon. He's got such a talented group of players, who are useless under him. Suppose the french know what it's like to be english now. Disappointed not to see more of Gourcuff last night. Could of lit up this tournament if only he wasn't in the french side.

  • Comment number 27.

    As usual people learn nothing from past experiences. Countless times fancied teams get off to a slow start and come good as the tournament goes on.

    That said, I don't and never did fancy this French side. Too many good but not great players just about sums them up, with a couple of exceptions.

    Leaving Nasri and Benzema out tells us all we need to know about this comedy act of a French manager. How he's still there is beyond me!

  • Comment number 28.

    Domenech=tool! Or at least it should translate as that. Its quite clear he should have gone after Euro 2008. The man is so mis-guided and should have his team sponsored by "laissez-faire" productions! He seems to think that somehow its all in the hands of the stars( astrologically speaking) and that he can put square pegs in round holes. Gourcuff & ribery must have great tournaments if they are to get anywhere.

  • Comment number 29.

    France were poor. However if I was a Frenchman I wouldn't be too concerned at the moment. They should get through the group and you really do not want to peak too early.

    I also think that this blog is a little harsh on France. Teams that put sit back and defend in numbers are hard to break down. And credit to Uruguay, they came out to see if they could frustrate France and maybe sneak a goal on the break but they were clearly content to take a draw. I thought that they defended superbly and worked hard from front to back. The work rate of Forlan up front epitomised that effort.

    The South Africa - Mexico game showed that both of those two teams were prone to frequent defensive lapses. I therefore think that France will very much fancy their chances of topping the group and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Uruguay sneak through in second place.

  • Comment number 30.

    A lot of the French Press have been savaging Domenech for several years now but there's been no real concensus as to what/who would be better. Faced with his contract and the fact that the French Football federation is a total joke (think back to the blazers at the FA 30 years ago and add gallic self pride to the mix!!!) nobody has dared to do anything. My opinion, shared with the neighbours over the garden fence frequently, he hould have gone with youth totally after the Euro 2008 elimination. Nasri, Benzema (sometimes), Gorcouff should have been nailed in starters from the beginning. Evra & Malouda are class. Henry, passed his sell by date as with Anelka. Cisse at least plays with passion and the new boy Valbuena has real pace. Surely he has to play against Mexico, even for just the second half?? Sadly probably not as RD will still go with Henry or Anelka. Perhaps that's his problem. Too much loyalty to those of the 2006 generation. Ho hum. At least it means that the neighbours aren't crowing yet and laughing at England (here's hoping we beat USA or I could be in for a torrid week!)

  • Comment number 31.

    Remember 1966?
    The score:- England 0 Uraguay 0.
    How boring was that?

  • Comment number 32.

    Worst game at the last world cup had to be Poland vs Ukraine - it was a struggle to maintain that the beautiful game existed

  • Comment number 33.

    I am amazed that Domenech has kept his place. They don't look like a team that is inspired at all. Inspired certainly wasn't the word I would use for the decision to keep arguably Chelsea's player of the season Malouda on the bench for 75 minutes. Still I will be happy for any of the other teams to progress from this group.

  • Comment number 34.

    Diaby played great!

  • Comment number 35.

    I thought Abu Diaby was brilliant. He a very impressive player who, unfortunately, has not been duly appreciated by the Arsenal fans. He deserves a much better treatment. He should be one of our key players next season.

  • Comment number 36.

    Well done South Africa, Well done Mexico, Wat a game for a Starter!!! Both teams had good chances and both had very vulnerable defences. Well done to the Coaches too; Much as the both teams were outstanding, I believe the coaches played their roles well. they had alot of cooking here and there to do with formations and substitutions for a good result.

    Uruguay Vs France was quite stalesmate, the ball was so caught up in the midfield and very few chances were created on either sides. Ribery did not link up so well with Evra. I would rather go for Malouda on the left and play Ribery on the right or the centre. I hope Domenech can fill these gaps. Uruguay laid all endeavours; Diego Folan had sights at goal but was one of those days when things do not go well. Well done to both teams though.

  • Comment number 37.

    Domench is the biggest idoit ive ever seen since graham taylors reign as the england coach. Hes tactically woeful and he has no clue about what he doing to be honest at this rate i wouldnt be surpised if france finished third in their group.

    How in gods name can you play anelka by himself and bench malouda and henry? what on earth was he doing its embrassing that yet even after the woeful performance of the euro 2008 the french fa have decided to kept on him for another two years!.

    Everyone is talking about he got france to the world cup final 4 years ago ! hmmmm i wonder why maybe they got one of the their players in the last decade out of retirement he was basically their only decent hope of any world cup glory which was ZIDANE.

    How how how how how please did he drop nasri,ben afra and benezema ! arent these three frenchs new generation !. Yes they maybe havent had the best of season these three but surely their talants would freshen up this old ridden french team!.

    To be honest i reckon he should have taken vieira! on board many will disagree with him here but hes got experience he knows what its all about and got be frances saviour. Again onto the strikers im not so surpised anelka has never been taken or picked for a world cup final hes woeful by himself and seem to crack it at international level 14 goals in 64 apps is a joke!.

    What about jimmy briand!,loic remy and saha! he should have dropped anelka for one of these three! much better strikers in my opinion they give france more options

  • Comment number 38.

    I can't forget the Henry handball that got France to the finals, the sooner they get knocked out the better. Come on RSA and Mexico.
    FIFA should be ashamed of themselves for not taking any action against France or Henry, have we learned nothing since the hand of god.

  • Comment number 39.

    How the heck did France lose against China lmao??????????
    Great article anyway, 'specially the last paragraph and the article name "Les Miserables" lol :)

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi Paul, good to see the World Cup blogs starting early and hope that they'll be coming with some frequency!

    I do agree with those who say that the criticism of the French is slightly overstated. Yes, Anelka did drop deep, and yes Govou did not see a lot of the ball, but as you say, Govou was tending to drop into his natural position (inside the oppositions area) and that allowed Anelka to drift out the right or back to a deep role perhaps even behind Gourcuff. The youngster who's drawing comparisons with Zidane got in the right positions but lacked the final touch, much the same as Ribery who got past defenders but failed to deliver or power home.

    If you include the bombing forward of Evra and especially Sagna (who was afforded space to run into by the clever movement inside by Govou) you have quite a fluid attacking formation to play against a deep 7 Uruguay stuck with for most of the match. However, as Paul mentions, this is a new formation and the team don't seem to have gelled.

    For that reason it would be foolish to write them off just now, and if Mexico play the 3-4-3 they played against South Africa Anelka, Ribery and, if he plays, Malouda's pace will give Marques and co. real trouble. Neither team will be very cautious methinks, so it could be a quality game...

  • Comment number 41.

    True France played badly, but in their defence the coach is a joke. Starting Goveu instead of Maluda 2 support Anelka. Leaving Henry on the bench till the 70th min. Taking Gorcuff off instead of Tululan when a man up, really this guy cannot go quick enough. France will get out of the group.

  • Comment number 42.

    If France get out of their group, they will be found out against the better teams. Should they come up against the likes of Brazil or Spain at some stage, they could be on the wrong end of a demolition.

  • Comment number 43.

    Many thanks for all your comments.

    I see that a few of you feel I might have been a little harsh on Les Bleus - and I understand some of the arguments. Opening game of a tournament, against a decent side, you don't want to hit form too quickly etc etc

    The thing is, I just don't think they have the unity and spirit to pull through and come out the other side. They are also without ZZ, the man who really turned it around for them in 2006.

    I agree with those who say they should be better than they are - but they aren't, for many, many reasons.

    Who do you think will qualify from the group?

  • Comment number 44.

    Agreed - the game was pretty dire Paul..but France are traditionally very poor starters at World Cups. Ribery was amazingly average on the night, Gourcuff showed very little as to why Arsenal are supposedly targeting him as Fabregas' replacement. Infact, they needed a bit of Nasri magic (who was left at home). Diaby played just feel he never gets out of second gear - could be incredible if he put a bit more of a spurt on - he's the same at Arsenal. Suarez didn't look all that impressive, especially compared to Forlan. Both teams were happy with the point.

  • Comment number 45.

    @ Enrique 4 spain left back 2010

    Spot on. How did Domenech survive for 6 years? Astology? England did have an equivalent in Mclaren. Mclaren may have survived till now if England qualified for Euro 2008. Truly awful prospect. For that everyone should give thanks to his 'Wally with a brolly' performance that sealed his fate.

  • Comment number 46.

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  • Comment number 47.

    JoC (post 44) - slow starters, very true. It is just that occasionally they don't start at all, as we saw in Euro 2008. How many goals did they score?

  • Comment number 48.

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  • Comment number 49.

    France didn't win because they couldn't use the dark arts last night - the referee was too good

  • Comment number 50.

    Henry calling for a handball at the end was hilarious. What an asswipe.

  • Comment number 51.

    Domenech is the result of the lack of team spirit, the majority of the team do not even like him, why are they going to want to play for him? Zidane used to run show on the pitch as well as off the pitch. Since he retired Domenech has looked clueless

  • Comment number 52.

    RE: Paul (No. 43)

    yes, you're rather to harsh on France....Uruguay were strong defensively, not sheepish

    FRANCE will get out of this group, having seen ALL the 4 teams play so far.....they will surely nick it against South Africa.....South Africa leave loads of space in their defence, i still wonder how mexico scored just 1 goal when they could have scored 5.

    and i don't see Mexico beating France....the best they'll get against France is a Draw.....france would have seen their weak spots from the first game and i reckon they'll improve from there.

    look, France will not lose a game in this group, but i'm sure they'll beat the hosts, at least, even if they draw the other 2....

    these garlic smelling lot just need to wake up and say HI to each other on the day, that's all.

    i hope they do....

  • Comment number 53.

    As far as forgettable World Cup matches go, Paraguay - Bulgaria at France 98 has to be up ( or down ) there.

    "Borrowing" a TV during a free period at school only to watch one of the dullest 0-0s of all time....

  • Comment number 54.

    Considering that France has sooo many Champions League players - that too from top flight teams - and that their combined salaries may be multiples of the players of Uruguay, they should have won at least 5-0!!

  • Comment number 55.

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  • Comment number 56.

    Yep, I pretty much agree with almost everything you've said here, Paul (except for your praise of Ribery, who was pretty awful, particularly in the second half).

    If I was a betting man, I'd whack some money down on France not getting through to the second round ASAP. In fairness, they may well sneak through, but the odds will probably make it a worthwhile gamble...

  • Comment number 57.

    The French look like they're marking time until Domenech goes. It's true that the side has decreased drastically in quality and talent over the last ten years, but they're still hardly chumps- it's just that Domenech's failing to get anything like the best out of the talent that he has. Nor is there any longer any semblance of a strong voice in the dressing room to take charge in situations where the manager won't. In 2006 Zidane, Makelele and Thuram were able to take the team by the scruff of the neck and drag it to the final, but this lot look a lot more timid.

    Why Vieira is not even on the bench is a mystery to me- France are a much better side when he's playing. Benzema has had a poor season, but if talented players like that are going to be overlooked in favour of 30-plus-year-olds you have to wonder what long-term plans Domenech actually has.

    France do have a couple of talented managers waiting in the wings to take over; the main mystery is why Domenech wasn't sacked after Euro 2008. Deschamps looks like the obvious choice, but Blanc will hopefully do a good job.

  • Comment number 58.

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  • Comment number 59.

    #47 Paul wrote: Euro 2008. How many goals did they score?

    Just the one wasn't it? That was one more than in the disastrous World Cup in 2002 though ;)..saying that they only scored 3 in the group stage last time but still got to the final and 2 of them were against Togo! Anyone who can afford to leave out the likes of Benzema can't be that bad though...can they?

  • Comment number 60.

    I wish Laurent Blanc would have walked down to the field, slapped Domenech, and then took over.

  • Comment number 61.

    when you have nothing to say just have a pop at the french it always works in this country.
    there is only one (massive) problem with the french team as any frenchmen (or any decent football analyst or commentator for that matter) and that is the coach
    you can resume in one two or three lines at most, but hey why not hide your complete lack of knowledge about the subject by just digging some easy shots at the french.

    good article really, in line with most bbc's coverage of this WC

  • Comment number 62.

    France are my pick to win the WC! They just need to survive the group stages. Phil is one of my favorite bloggers in BBC, but I think he is overstating Frances or performance. Ribery is not overrated. If you watch the South American qualifiers, you'd be amazed to see why Messi is one of the top 10, let alone the best player. After Mexic and South Africa's draw, neither team wanted to risk. Save the dazzling stuff when it matters! Urauguay played bunkered defense.

    One point that I do agree with most here that Gourcaff is indeed very overrated and always has been. As much as I like to think this is not would not be the case, I wonder if there has a sense that most French think that their team may be too Black and North African, and thus a need to elevate ethnic French.

    Still I would not put much stock in group stage displays. In 2006 Spain and Argentina looked world apart from the rest of pack based upon their group display, they both meet teams that clawed their way to knock out stages, One (Spain) were beaten 3-1 (their only goal on a PK), and Argentina needed a brilliant Extra time goal from Maxi, and were extremely fortunate that one of their defender didn't get a red card for tackling the player and being the only defender between the attacker and the goal keeper.

  • Comment number 63.

    They werent great but I do think they will beat one of RSA or Mexico which should be enough after the two draws so far.

    I do think they will actually be hard to beat, France dont give much away although scoring might be a problem as I think Ribery is overrated & the rest are past their peak or simply not good enough but in a knockout tournament being hard to beat is a good quality to have.

    I still think Anelka is not an out & out centre forward, drops either deep or wide, he has the pace to play on the shoulder but seems to want to stay out of harms way too often.

    They should have taken Benzema & left Henry, I think his influence is too great for a player who is clearly finished at the highest level.

  • Comment number 64.

    Paul, there are numerous examples of teams enduring poor starts and going on to prosper, as I hope you are aware.

    Italy 1982 are the best example. They struggled to get out of the group stages but just got betterand better as the tournament progressed. Conversely, several others have started brilliantly, only to fade. Readup on Denmark 1986 and Argentina 2006.

  • Comment number 65.

    Les Bleus are a good side. Gallas and Evra are experienced guys. Tall Diaby controlled a lot of area. An inspirational leader in the team is what was missing in the line up in their first encounter. The side is yet to come up with a solid replacement for the legendary Zidane or playmaker Vieira. Henry made some good runs but had less time to make a serious impact.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 66.

    What an awful tenure under Domenech. The 2006 run to the final seems long ago now, and surely that was more due to Zindane's inspiration than any technical or tactical nous from Domenech.

    Here is a manager that has succeeded in alienating or cutting prematurely the international careers of many French players: Pires, Trezeguet now Benzema.

    I, like many other fans who watch the French team, cannot wait for Blanc to take over, because the French team looks out of sorts, with in-fighting, player caucuses, a playing pattern that is not working and too much awful football. I cannot understand, for the life of me, why Domenech wouldn't opt for a positive and uncomplicated formation that will take advantage of the talent in the squad. Surely a 4-4-2, would have been better than the ridiculous 4-4-3 last night that saw Anelka cut a solitary isolated figure, with Gourcuff too deep to be effective. In my opinion, France should be set up thus:


    Sagna Gallas Abidal Evra

    Ribery Gourcuff Toulalan Malouda

    Anelka Henry

    Gallas seems to be a negative influence in the squad. Every story about conflict in the squad is linked to him, and the same has been said about Arsenal where he didn't get along with Kolo Toure, and now with Nasri and a few others. I feel the time has come for his to retire so that players like Mexes, Escude and Squillachi could play in France's central defence. Benzema should also be drafted back into the squad after the WC, and France shld start rebuilding with an eye on Brazil 2014.

    Regarding this tournament, they could still win games against Mexico and South Africa. With this draw, all that is required is another draw and a win. A 2nd round finish shouldn't be seen as a total failure; they shouldn't have been here in the first place.

  • Comment number 67.

    France will get through the group stage. Then meet Nigeria who will probably finish behind Argentina. Not much problem there. England in the 1/4 finals. No problem as they never perform at this level. Brazil in the semis. France will see them off as they have done several times in recent world cups. Spain in the final who will be too strong for the French. Not a bad world cup in all.

  • Comment number 68.

    Being Irish you can imagine I am no fan of the French football team or indeed Henry, who even before the "Le Cheat" incident I considered massively over rated. Like his compatriot Cantona he is simply a premiership star and not by any means world class. Before Arsenal what had we heard of him and after Arsenal he is again relegated to his mediocre status.
    The Irish aren't bitter having been knocked out even by his handball but more by one of the most average French teams in recent memory. If the likes of Ribery are being touted as the future of French football then is indeed a grim and deserving horizon ahead.

  • Comment number 69.

    OMG this is stating the obvious they are a shambles from front to back and vastly overrated their problem is simple they cant score goals. And you say can you get any worse France vs Uruguay 0-0 world cup 2002, euro 96 0-0 twice against the dutch and czechs. Terrible defence of the trophy in 2002 followed by euro 08 bore 0-0 with Romania. This is no coincidence when i watch them i can only conclude that they really cant be bothered and dont play as a team just a bunch of individuals with inflated egos.

  • Comment number 70.

    If you watch French domestic football, it is shockingly unimaginative . Its technically good and disciplined, but all it consists of is coaches with the same badges playing with the same tactics against each other. Its chess on grass , if you like. French football is everything French sterotypes are not. The average Frenchman is not particularly interested in football, and is certainly not knowledgeable about the game in the way we assume. That is the reason their coach has kept his post. People in France don't really care enough to dictate otherwise .

  • Comment number 71.

    A more coherent and threatening team played and finished the match!!
    Malouda left,ribeiry hangin 9 1/2, gignac and henry upfront!!
    Diaby ( reason why viera was left home!!) and Toul are ok there. our defence solide,we make the 16 with 5 points minimum and go all the way
    beating all these guys upto to the finals
    WAIT AND SEE haters and jealousers, while fishing and watching us ,england and france on television


  • Comment number 72.


    you do really have a point here,Gallas was able to cover his inabilities in 2006 AS he played alongside Thuram,in 2008 he was a total failure and he destroyed with his Ego Arsenal run this year and last year.

    By les Bleus he refuses to play as left central defender, thus allowing Mexes in the selection ,or even Squillaci in team.

    as good as you waste time on french football(ers), best european export,you should also know; it is high politics!We voted Sarkozy incompetent politician,the guys of the FFF prefered keeping Domenech for their own comfort instead of putting guys who will trouble and jeoapardize their position,high politics!

    Just like africans players playing in Europa do not respect the local national coaches,some french players overlooked Domenech but this time is over because Laurent Blanc!!

  • Comment number 73.

    Sorry fella, if you knew anything about football you'd know in 2006 France drew their first 2 games, playing woefully, and then got to the final. There was little evidence they would do that.

    Sorry but they weren't that bad last night. Well-organised and defensively solid against uruguay, but they lacked cohesion in attack, anelka dropping deep too often, govou anonymous, gourcuff embarassingly bad.

    But they are a group of top-level players, and if they find the spark that opens up the quality of ribery, henry, gourcuff and anelka, they've got more chance of winning it than England.

    Of course you prefer to see it the other way because that's what you predicted before, and had been hoping to be able to write. They don't even deserve to be there, cheating frogs, we at the bbc want justice and that means some good-humoured casual xenophobia. Course they're always so unpredictable those moody french.

  • Comment number 74.


    most of you have been slating France all the while..........did you see England tonight ?

    England would have lost to Uruguay!!!

    ponder on this for long.....

  • Comment number 75.

    we lost a point vs.uruguay
    USA lost two points

    A propos they would have lost also to Mexico,Rsa.
    All good, all well WE ARE STILL ON IT

  • Comment number 76.

    Team Problem or coach problem?

    France got to the final of 2006 because Zidane picked the team and forced the team to play.
    If they scrape through this stage and get in to knockout football when teams have to win, they will suddenly look better. Especially if the coach allows his players to play. a 4-4-2 with Anelka/Henry and Gourgouuff/Gignac up front, Ribery and Malouda wide with Diaby and Toulalan anchoring could be a handy side. As long as the coach realises that Govou is completely useless, they can only improve. They looked defensively solid (and Oh would England liked to have had Lloris in goal tonight!) and Diaby was a real handful in the middle.

    It must be noted that boring does win world cups. In 2006, Italy won despite not having a single shot on goal in the second half and the whole of extra time. 75 minutes of not shooting and still winning. Unbelievable but true.

  • Comment number 77.

    I was at last nights game, France are horrendous. I almost fell asleep. It was interesting in the Budweiser tent.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think that France will struggle to get through the group stage they are like what Italy was at Euro 2008 an ageing side,

  • Comment number 79.

    France won't win the WC as they clearly have internal issues. Domenech had a row with Malouda before yesterday's match which is why he was on the subs bench. He should count himself lucky that Capello isn't France manager as he'd be taking an early flight home. Domenech, though it has to be said is a grade A clown. How has the man been in charge of France for five years!!!?? they shouyld have replaced him after the last WC when he proposed live on French TV just after France has lost in the final. Can you imagine an England Manager making such an ill-timed gaffe. Another thing, if Domenech really does pick players according to their star sign, then he's completely wacko.....I find this very difficult to believe though. But they've stuck with him for way too long, just as England did with Sven.

    The first game is usually abit underwelming, but as an England supporter I have to be worried by the fact that so many of the team didn't put in a decent performance. I'll side step Green as his error has been highlighted by nearly everyone....but Heskey was poor, Rooney, very quiet, Lampard.....was he actually in the game at all??? SWP - just mazy runs into cul-de-sacs (nothing new there), and Milner played as if he was abit overwelmed by it all, and his usual composure was awol......only Terry and Gerrard had decent performances, and even if the first game is usually not the best for teams, I can't see us lifting the WC, when you compare what we have collectively as a squad with that of Brazil and Spain, not to mention Argentina and Holland. We'll definitely get past the group stage but I think unless we start playing more as a unit, don't keep on giving the ball away and see Lampard and Gerrard become the midfield dynamic duo they always promise to be (but never are) then the quarters is as good as will get for me. Semis? nope....this team isn't as good as the one at Italia 90. Time to stop being so unrealistic.....I think getting to the last 8 would be a decent effort not a disgrace. That would be not getting beyond the group stage. I want us to do as well as possible but we're not going to outwit teams like Brazil or Spain. To think we will is delusional.....more strength in depth is required for that....amd better ball control as well.

  • Comment number 80.

    Again just going through some comments alot of interesting points here, to be honest im not a france fan even though my 606 name is nasri i do like their team. However the once powerhouse of france are coming a decline this coach its giving france a bad name and if the past french greats such as zidane,desailly and plantini were watching last nights performances they would have swept with embrassment and tears.

    Their once great academy who have produced the likes of henry and gallas,ben afra and trezeguet will also be disgraced as their once great products are becoming into a laughing stock.

    When domench goes and they bring in blanc i believe he is the man is to change france. Hopefully he changes the formation and brings back the much needed talant thats needs to be put into this disfunctional french team.

  • Comment number 81.

    Yet another France-bashing article on the BBC. Other underperforming teams don't get nearly as harsh a treatment (apart from England :) ). And the french media never criticize other countries' teams that way.


    ps: I'm a briton living in France at the moment, for the record.

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 83.

    Totally agree with the post above, our media have shown they are spineless vultures, even when it comes to national matters. The BBC are just like the rest of them.

  • Comment number 84.

    Well - what a start you guys know how to brighten up our weekend up here in God's country north of Hadrians wall. Are your hopes up beside your chariot?

  • Comment number 85.

    Domenech has made too many mistakes. Where are Vieira, Trezeguet, Benzema, Nasri, Ben Arfa, Mexes etc.? Vieira and Trezeguet know how to win.

    Govou was invisible against Uruguay. Is Cisse better than Benzema? I don't think so.

  • Comment number 86.

    Had Zidane not come out of retirement in 2005, France would not have qualified for the 2006 finals. It was obvious during the finals of 2006 that the senior players led by Zidane, were running the show. They gathered and sopke to each other during breaks and before the match, they gave instructions to the others, and even from the press conferences, you could see that it was Zidane, Makelele and Viera who were calling the shots.
    Domenech sould have been sacked in 2004/5. He has taken French football back 10 years i.e they are behind where they were when he took over by at least another 5 years. And now he is at a World Cup finals with nothing to play for, as he leaves after they eventually get bundled out of it! I must say that France were very, very lucky to have the generation of Zidane. Now it is time to go back to the miserable years, for a long time. Just when you think that their FA have gotten their act together and moved on, they default to their miserable old selves.

  • Comment number 87.

    All this French team bashing after 1 game almost makes me laugh. The same happened in 2006 when France then played in the Final England had gone home long ago. Some people never learn, and yet the same people claim to know about football.
    We all heard and read that England was going to trash USA, oh well. Maybe one day the british people will learn that football is not about a lot of talking.

  • Comment number 88.

    I think alot people including myself have criticized france too much its only the first game but look at england they were expected to thrash the usa. Or argentina with the players they had on show you would of expected to win 3-0 nil comformatbly against nigeria but they only narrowed it 1-0 nil.

    I think the big guns will struggle this summer as it was the similar case of the 2002 world cup, I dont think we shall see the typical big four argentina,italy etc.I think france or italy will go out if they meet any of the bigger teams such as brazil or spain they will get thrashed i can guarantee you that.

    But lets not look on the negatives what domench needs to do hes open his head up and take tactical advice from his other coaches and listen to his players instead of running things they way he wants to.

    The main point is anelka should not start again by himself he should play alongside any of the other strikers in the squad. Henry i dont think he has the legs to play on his own he should start cisse or gignac regularly i think they more able to play on their own.

    Start malouda on the wings and ribery of course, keep toulalan and gourcuff i dont know about diaby presence of the team hes had a good first game hes showing good signs for france. Wheither he should start that remains to be seen but in my opinion he should an extra midfielder on the bench if needed.

    Govou should not start he should be a also a bench warmer hes effective when hes a super sub ive seen many times for france and lyon when hes comes of the bench he seems to be very good and cause havoc for defences.

    Here the formation domench should play a 4-4-2


    Sagna Gallas Planus or reviellire evra or abidal

    Malouda Toulalan Gorcuff Ribery

    Anelka cisse or gignac

  • Comment number 89.

    Player for player France are better than England.

    Have that.

  • Comment number 90.

    people tend to forget, that in 2006 France went to the final thanks to not only ZZ but also to HENRY, VIEIRA, THURAM AND MAKELELE - who all had magnificent games. As a matter of fact France could have eaten up Italy in the final if Vieira hadn't have an injury early in the game as he was that important for them.

    In regard of the dull game two days ago: the only positive midfield player was Diaby. Even in the CL I had the feeling that Gourcuff is still unable to play at the highest level. it turned out again - surprise, surprise.

    France can only win with more attacking power. 2 strikers: Anelka+ someone, 2 wingers: Malouda left, Ribery right (yes, he has to sacrifice himself) + Toulalan and Diaby in the middle of the park as they were very good in the last couple of minutes. otherwise they dont get anywhere.

  • Comment number 91.

    3 things will be sure:

    1....France will improve with subsequent matches

    2...France will top their group

    3...France will qualify from their group

  • Comment number 92.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 93.

    I like Gourcuff, he is only 22, Zidane didnt come to the for until 25 or so.

    I think France do have the players but their tactics are awful and they clearly dont play as a team. Gourcuff just needs nurturing and developing after this tournament. The problem is that in the past there was only one Kingpin in the side but now there are 5 or 6.

  • Comment number 94.

    France have shown nothig for any other team to be afraid of.
    They were poor, but mainly due to lack of a cutting edge. The final ball was non-existent. There is, however, an evident lack of self-belief and team spirit. All is ot well in their camp, that much seems certain.
    However, the problems, whatever they may be, stem from within the camp, and not from the Jabulani ball or the vuvuzelas, as some of them would have us believe.

  • Comment number 95.

    It's great to see the French in total disarray: what goes around comes around. This Irish football fan was hoping that Lady Luck would turn against the French, who cheated their way through the qualification match against Ireland. Neither Henry, who blatantly handled the ball in the Irish penalty area to secure a "goal" that should have been disallowed, nor the team captain Evra, nor the coach Domenech ever admitted that Henry's cheating was wrong. So I await the last game involving Franch next week & hope that they will all be on the plane back to Paris in a few days. Tough Camembert, monsieurs.

  • Comment number 96.

    send the team home and forfiet the next match

  • Comment number 97.

    France are out already, Uruguay v Mexico will be a draw and both will qualify!!!


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