Wednesday, June 16, 2004
  What's wrong with France
France's getting out of jail shouldn't conceal the problems with the French team.

The defence lived down to expectations. Barthez was a hero on the day, but you always sense that you're only one slip away from a catastrophe with him.

The midfield looks incoherent and unbalanced. The central pairing of Vieira and Makelele lacks creativity. Pulling the strings was left to Zidane, and the cost of that was his continually drifting off-station. More adventurous - or, if you prefer, less disciplined - right-sided players could well exploit this more effectively than did the predominantly cautious Neville and Beckham on Sunday.

Furthermore, I'm not convinced by the Henry-Trezeguet pairing. It's not only that Trezeguet is unproven at this level; it's that he and Thierry don't seem to combine especially well.

I confess I'm not a fan of using two out-and-out strikers. Rather than leading to more attacking play, it can actually mean that you're unable to get the ball forward. Two of your players, stranded ahead of the play, are taken out of the game for most of the time with the result that you can easily be overrun in midfield. (Let's not forget that when France won the World Cup in 98, they didn't have even one centre-forward of any quality. Guivarch anybody?)

Besides, Henry is always more effective when deployed alongside a deep-lying striker. He never likes quite as good whenever Bergkamp's not in the Arsenal side.

I agree with your assessment of the back line and the midfield. That Viera, of all people, is being called into any kind of creative role is appalling. That's what Pirès is there for, but he didn't deliver. Frankly, this team relies far too much on Zidane. When he's on, everyone is on, when he's not, it's a struggle. And he *still* has to save their ass.

I don't agree about Henry-Trézéguet. "Unproven at this level"? He's been in the team since the WC 98. If something were happening to set up proper attacks from mid-field, they'd be a beautiful two-pronged attack: Henry's speed coming from the wings combined with Trézéguet's effeciency, powerful shots and penalty-box vulturism.
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