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The French national team is about to qualify for the European Championship, they head group D with 20 points and only need a draw against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday, October 11th.
But Les Bleus didn’t always have good times. Only one year ago, they were devastated. Players had boycotted their manager, Raymond Domenech, at the World Cup in South Africa and they didn’t even win a match. One point and one goal have never been enough to go through the group stage. In the end the federation sacked the manager, what was already overdue, punished almost the whole squad and pinned all hopes on Laurent Blanc, the former Girondins Bordeaux manager.
Laurent Blanc announced to change everything. New players, new tactics and so on and so forth. He also considered the punishments of the federation for the players. That’s why he only called players, who hadn’t been in South Africa, up for his first match against Norway in August 2010. Step-by-step the 45-year-old former defender integrated players like Ribery and Evra who were responsible for the strike and the following disgrace at the World Cup.
Blanc has built acompletely new team of old and new players.
When he was still manager in Bordeaux, Laurent Blanc preferred playing in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-1-3-2 which helped them to win the league once. Blanc had made Bordeaux to one of the best clubs in France but after he had quitted them, they went to the dogs.
As manager of the Equipe Tricolore, Blanc has already played with four different tactics. He still prefers the 4-2-3-1 and has used these tactics in four out of 8 qualifying matches yet. In this formation, Benzema is the only striker and Malouda, Nasri and Valbuena are often the three players supporting him. Ribery hasn’t played that much yet, he often came in for less than 45 minutes.
Les Bleus have also played with a flat 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3, twice each. Blanc prefers playing with two strikers such as Hoarau (PSG) and Gomis (OL) when Benzema can’t play. Once the even used a diamond formation in the midfield.
In the rather offensive 4-3-3, Blanc lets quite defensively-minded midfielders e.g. M’Vila, Diaby and Marvin Martin play to keep the balance between the very offensive wingers (Menez/Ribery/Malouda/Valbuena) and the defense.
Unlike Domenech, Blanc has called up many new players. In his first 16 matches as national coach, 46 different players have played for Blanc. This is actually a lot, especially for only 16 matches. Blanc has picked as many players from the French league as legionaries. 13 players from French clubs (OL, OM, Bordeaux, LOSC, Rennes and Sochaux) and only 10 players from foreign clubs belong to the squad against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Blanc also trusts in many young and unknown players. Gifted players like Yannick M’Vila (Rennes), Marvin Martin (Sochaux) and Mamadou Sakho (PSG) already play an important part in Blanc’s starting line-up. Especially M’Vila, a defensive midfielder with a market value of 20 million Euros has played almost every match.
But the world champion from 1998 has called many unknown players up as well! I don’t think that many of my readers have already heard of Kevin Gameiro (PSG), Mathieu Debuchy (LOSC), Adil Rami (Valencia) or Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle). Gameiro is a striker from PSG, Debuchy a wingback from the French champion; Lille, Rami plays as center back for Valencia and Cabaye a defensive midfielder from Newcastle.
These aren’t famous but good players and that shows that Blanc doesn’t care about the name but about the performances. They are all actually very good and quite young as well. Out of the current squad, 7 players (Sakho, Martin, M’Vila, Debuchy, Gameiro, Rami and Cabaye) were first called up by Laurent Blanc.
In fact Blanc has a wonderful team. His goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is one of the best in the world and his defense is tall, tough and experienced. His midfielders play in the Champions League every year (except M’Vila but many great clubs want to sign him), are very experienced as well, quite young and very gifted. Only Blanc’s strikers aren’t the best in the world. Benzema doesn’t play constantly enough, Gameiro and Rémy (OL) aren’t very experienced, Gomis often gets his nerves and Djibril Cissé is a diva.
I think that Blanc is doing a great job and that he can play an important part with his team in Poland and Ukraine in 2012 if they keep on working because they aren’t playing perfectly at all. They still need to improve their moves and their offensive actions otherwise it’ll be difficult to win against teams like Spain, Germany, Italy or England. But:
In Blanc we trust!
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