By Shai Mamou
Alea jacta est, as Julius Caesar said. The French team for the South African World Cup in june has been revealed by the most criticized coach among the 32 squads who will participate. Raymond Domenech, designed by recent surveys as one of the most hated person in France, decided to compose a 24 men squad (including the injured William Gallas) to make local journalists lie. Let’s analyze it a little.
Honestly there is no debate for the goalkeepers. In my opinion, Hugo Lloris (Lyon) is “the next big thing” at his position. If nothing goes wrong, he will be the best keeper in the world before one or two years. His substitutes are also very well qualified, Steve Mandanda (Marseille) and Cédric Carrasso (Bordeaux) being excellent stands in.
The defensive side is really worrying, especially for the centre backs. With William Gallas (Arsenal) at 60%, Sébastien Squillaci (Sevilla) who never really showed something at high level and Marc Planus (Bordeaux) who is here to anticipate Gallas’s withdrawal, I fear for France if the team have to face strikers like Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi or anyone with two legs… There is only Eric Abidal (Barcelona), positioned as a left fullback in Barcelona, who seems to be fit for the competition… The fullbacks are, on the other hand, a source of confidence. Patrice Evra (Manchester United) is the best on the left side and Bacary Sagna (Arsenal) usually does a good job on the right. Anthony Réveillère (Lyon), quite a versatile player, has surprisingly ejected the powerful Rod Fanni from the list, joining Gaël Clichy (Arsenal) in the confederation of waterboys.
France has excellent midfielders and to me it is the best (only?) forceful argument they have this year. There are pounds to send in the battle with the huge Abou Diaby (Arsenal) and Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), who could be Patrick Vieira nephews judging by their resemblances. Will they be as efficient as the banished veteran Vieira sent to retirement by Domenech? Not so sure… With the tireless Lassana Diarra (Real Madrid) and Jérémy Toulalan (Lyon), the defensive part of the midfield is excellent. Toulalan looks like he is 35 but runs like a teenager. That guy is a nightmare for the opponents, even if some say he is slow, he will never let his pray run away… Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux) is the only one who can take the Equipe de France game in charge. The young playboy has had a disappointing year with Bordeaux, but is still able to change a game with a genious trick. The wingers Florent Malouda (Chelsea) and Franck Ribéry (Bayern) are among the best in the world, but won’t they be exhausted after a long season for the Londonian and a disturbing sex scandal for Ribéry? That is why I expect Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille) to be the surprise of this World Cup. I told you, a month ago, that I hoped Domenech would call Valbuena for the competition. Well, it was the good move Ray! Sidney Govou (Lyon), the turbulent right winger, can also bring his determination in a desperate situation and Domenech likes him so he could have more minutes on the field than expected.
Photo from fOTOGLIF
Last but not the least worrying, the strikers. I am really afraid of a disaster. Thierry Henry (Barcelona) was a substitute the whole year long in Spain and is still looking for his youngster legs. But Henry will always be Henry and he could shine for his last international competition before leaving for the US. Djibril Cissé (Panathinaikos), also called Robocop (his return after two broken legs is quite amazing), scored a lot this year but in the pathetic Greek League. André-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse) spent a lot of time watching his team mates and will probably be a little short to be really efficient. Finally, Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea) could be the factor X of the team. No one knows when he is motivated (if it is the case he is one of the best strikers in the world) and when he is too casual to be a weapon of massive destruction…
Here is my forecast: Each time France is expected as a potential winner, they fail. This year, no one in the country and abroad can possibly think they will do something. Well, maybe I will surprise you but l’Equipe de France is my outsider number one. If they probably won’t win the trophy, I see them in the final four…