Match preview: France (home)
Well, this is unfamiliar. If you had told me two months ago that we would go into this game against France with half of their population writing Les Bleus off and the other half biting their fingernails, I would have been skeptical to say the least. One shocking loss to Belarus in Paris later, however, and here we are. It’d be pretty funny if it wasn’t so nerve-racking at the same time. More below the fold.
So to begin with, let’s look at the positives for France. First off, unfortunately for us, Raymond Domenech is no longer their manager. In his place is the relatively young, highly-rated Laurent Blanc, who has done wonders in recent years with Ligue 1 side Bordeaux. Beyond that, as would be expected, they have a fantastic group of footballers, many of whom play for clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid. Among those expected to start tomorrow are such stars as Hugo Lloris, Bacary Sagna, Gaël Clichy, Karim Benzema and captain Florent Malouda. They have a world class goalkeeper (Lloris) and are spoiled for choice when it comes to offensive talent on the flanks.
Now for the negatives. In the fall-out from their fiasco in South Africa, approximately 2/3rds of their best players have either retired, received suspensions or picked up injuries. This apparently includes virtually every French midfielder capable of passing the ball, so their primary “playmaker” is Malouda, a left winger. Furthermore, prior to the loss against Belarus, most of the players in the squad had never played together before, and so the team is going through some inevitable growing pains. These growing pains are no doubt exacerbated by a combination of youth, inexperience, intense pressure and a poisonous atmosphere that seems to surround the team in the French press and among the fans. In short, to use what seems to be the metaphor of the week among Bosnian football analysts, the French come to us as a wounded lion – vulnerable and dangerous in equal measure.
Below are the extended highlights from the previously mentioned Belarus game. Zonal Marking offers a tactical analysis of the match here.
Fortunately for the French, their opponents are arguably the most erratic team in European football.
We enter this match with several strengths that roughly parallel our opponents weaknesses. In Edin Džeko, we have a world class center forward. Behind him, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to creative attacking midfielders, with Senijad Ibričić, Zvjezdan Misimović and Miralem Pjanić all in good form. This team has been together for several years now and the players all understand each other very well, many of them playing together in the U21s and in various clubs. Besides knowing each other well on the field, they’re also close friends off of it, and following the win against Luxembourg the atmosphere in the press and among the fans is once again great as well.
Finally, in contrast to our opponents, there’s no great pressure on our team. The fans are cautiously hoping for a win, but Safet Sušić has been careful to cede the role of favorites to the French, and most people here would be content with a draw as well.
Oh, and I guess there’s also the small matter of home field advantage.
Of course, we have our problems as well. It’d sure be nice to have a spare center-back and defensive midfielder right now, and it’s a real shame that Sejad Salihović is suspended for three more games and can’t take care of at least that second one for us. We don’t have any set formation right now, so it’s anybody’s guess exactly what Sušić will go with tomorrow, including the players’. Also, defending against wide players is not the strongest part of our game, so I could see us having plenty of trouble against Malouda and co there.
Predictions might be a little ungrateful. The odds that I’ve seen place both us and France as equally likely to win. If I was a betting man though, I’d go with 1X, because we have enough things going in our favor that I’d be surprised if we didn’t at least get a draw.
I leave you with the highlights of a game that I still remember very well, a friendly against France in Sarajevo from 2006. We narrowly lost that night, 2-1, with the French goals falling at the end of the half and just before the referee blew his whistle. Koševo was packed, the French were vice-champions of the world and the atmosphere was electric. Four years have passed since, much has happened in the meantime and only two of the actors on our side remain the same (Spahić and Misimović, who you’ll see dribble through the French defense below). Still, I hope that next week we’ll put in a similar performance but with a slightly different result. Considering how close we came then, when the gap in quality between the two teams was even wider, anything is possible.
Bosnia is a up and coming team with many skilled players, If it wasnt for having a tough group in the world cup qualifying the might have made it in. I expect a draw. France did play well agasint Belarus they missed many chances. All to play for now as Bosnia shouldnt be taken lightly.
Great article Harun. You really summed up the whole of France’s situation. It’s astonishing how Bosnia’s strengths contrast Les Bleus weaknesses. France have absolutely no playmaker. No Nasri or Gourcuff. Bosnia’s midfield is packed with players who can fulfill that duty. France’s only strengths right now are on the flanks. I write for the France WCB and we should be doing a liveblog tomorrow, you and other Bosnian fans are welcome to join us.
Posted from United States
Thanks Jean-François. I’ll try to make the liveblog as soon as I find a good stream.
Thanks for the great summary Harun. Can’t wait for tomorrows match. It’s going to be an exciting 90 minutes, full of action.
Eagerly awaiting your review and analysis of the France game
Just though I would show you this too before you make it:
i found that video, and the fact that fans jeered our own captain when he told them to stop disrupting play quite disturbing and it shows a lack of morale and respect
Thanks Adem. I remembered it from the game, but I hadn’t seen the video yet. I’ll put up my next post soon.
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