Saturday night in Sofia, Bulgaria, the Blues of France took a vital step towards qualification for the 2018 Russia World Cup by winning 1-0 off of a 3rd-minute goal.
Blaise Matuidi finished well early on to put France ahead, and from there the visitors booted the ball about the pitch to close out the game and secure the 3 points. The build-up play was easy on the eye, and Griezmann clearly knows how to set up his teammates.
Although the scoreline might not reflect the sort of apocalyptic obliteration the fans wanted to see, the more important thing in such a scenario is to get the job done. Deschamps men looked uncomfortable, but their quality showed through. The starting lineup was intriguing, with many of big-ticket names featured on the paper.
The defensive front is obviously talented, but right-back Djibril Sidibe got tired early, and Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane haven’t quite found their groove yet; the Barca-Real Madrid pair will be vital during the summer World Cup campaign. Realistically, Varane should be contesting, and Umtiti should be performing some sort of cleanup work, but instead, they too often find themselves flat-footed. Luckily enough, the Bulgarian attacking front was mediocre at best and never able to really threaten. Against a powerhouse nation like Germany, the pair will have to perform better. Still, they are undeniably world class, and I’m confident that will show through eventually.
N’Golo Kante went out midway through the first period with a hamstring issue, which is bad news for France, but especially for Chelsea. Luckily, they need only to beat Belarus in France to seal qualification. The midfield of France is one of the biggest question marks for the team. Kante and Paul Pogba are both international superstars, and they always show up to play for their country. Pogba is out for a spell and needs to get a good season under his belt in order to be fit for the Cup. Kante is still being evaluated, but should he be unavailable come June, it could be a nightmare scenario for the team. Substitute Adrien Rabiot’s production looked a shadow of what Kante delivers week in, week out. Jallet won’t do much either in that department, so the responsibility of being prepared to play defensive stalwart falls to Matuidi, who prefers to jaunt forward out of the midfield than to sit in front of the back four.
France really shines brightest when going forward. Coach Deschamps has kept his team’s attacking potential coiled up, but there were flashes of it on Saturday night, and more and more young stars keep showing up. They worked the ball around as the clock drained without ever looking like they put their foot fully on the gas. Kylian Mbappe is obviously a huge name, as is Alexandre Lacazette, but the jewel at the heart of the puzzle is Kevin Griezmann. If France has dreams of winning the World Cup for the second time, it will all hinge on the young Franco-Spaniard. A balance is going to have to be found between Griezmann and the supporting cast of characters. Expect him to play in a CAM role, like he did against Bulgaria, behind out and out strikers like Laca or Giroud. The wings are where the real deliberations lie. Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial are phenomenally talented, but Lemar and Mbappe are more proven thus far. Saturday, Mbappe got the nod out of the trio, but any player could come on as a power substitute.
Right now, the team is looking likely to go on towards sealing qualification after the statement they made on Saturday. The question is all about their mentality going into the summer, but regardless, they will be one of the favorites to go far into the competition, if not win it outright
Die-hard Arsenal fan since the Thierry Henry days. Fan of the old Cesc Fabregas and vintage Iceman Bergkamp; less keen on Emanuel Eboue and Andre Santos.
If you are reading this and your name is Robin Van Persie or Samir Nasri, you can go shove it up yer mum's clunge.