The Second French Revolution
I’d like you to go to that part of the brain you have padlocked shut, hidden the key to the door somewhere you have forgot about and basically have a ten mile exclusion zone around it. Inside contains all those things you have decided to forget about, all those things you don’t want to remember, they are just too awful.
Come on then, I’ll give you time to find that key, its time to go in. Just be careful, I only want you to go to the bit which stores the 2010 World Cup.
There? Good, just be careful, some bad memories will come flooding back to you. Oooh, the 4-1 is there, the Rob Green howler, you can remember that again. Can’t you? I’m sorry.
But the reason for this rather strange and possibly pointless exercise is that I want to talk about France. And you thought England had a bad World Cup, it seems good, in fact I’m pretty sure that 4-1 against Germany still looks good against France. Hey, we won a game at least.
France got one point. In that drab and horribly dull game against Uruguay on the opening day. And then the capitulations against Mexico and South Africa.
It wasn’t the performances though that made the headlines. The spectacular internal implosion got everyone talking, from Anelka to the fitness coach chucking away his pass in front of, well, the whole of the international press and their cameras.
And the man who ended up with full responsibility was Raymond Domenech. The astrological lover who only four years early took his nation to the final of the World Cup.
How times change. And it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. They did set precedent by finishing last of their (albeit difficult) group in the 2008 European Championships (behind the Netherlands, Italy and er, Romania). And then only got into the finals themselves because of the hand of Henry.
Out went Domenech, fair to say no one was really saddened by this decision.
In came Laurent Blanc, the ex-Barcelona, Internazional and Manchester United (to name a few) defender. He brought to the table three years of managerial experience in the French top flight, Ligue 1, with Bordeaux. He was the first manager since 2001 to break the Lyon stranglehold on the league, winning the Ligue 1 Manager of the Year in the process.
Not bad for a young manager.
His first job for France was to punish all 23 members of the World Cup squad. None of them would be present in his first international match, a friendly against Norway. They lost 2-1 but a precedent was set by Blanc, he was boss.
And its shown well in his spell so far, which has included wins against England (2-1 at Wembley) and Brazil (1-0 at Stade de France). France are getting back to their successful selves, like the team Blanc won the World Cup with back in 1998.
Of course it would be silly to suggest the European Championships in 2012 are nailed on certainties for France. There are still a lot of good teams in Europe, Spain will still have many of the top class players which won them the last Euros in 2008 and of course the World Cup, Germany have talented youngsters which served them well in South Africa and the Netherlands should never be discredited, even if their tactics these days aren’t as good as they used to be.
But Blanc has tried to make improvements, shift the dead wood, actually care about the national team and prove himself to be a capable manager who can take care of the players and manage them suitably.
To compare the changes, below I’ve listed the last game in charge for Domenech (South Africa at the World Cup) and the latest game for Blanc (Brazil in a friendly on Wednesday).
|v South Africa (22/06/10)||v Brazil (09/02/11)|
|Lloris (GK)||Lloris (GK)|
Only four members have remained. The talented keeper in Hugo Lloris (who was about the only player not to disgrace himself at the World Cup), as well as Bacary Sagna, Alou Diarra and Yoann Gourcuff. And its worked, Brazil’s team consisted the likes of David Luiz, Robinho and Alexandre Pato, all players who are world class. Even if it is only a friendly, the signs are promising.
I watched the France v Brazil match on ESPN instead of watching England, and despite me regretting the decision because for once it seemed the England match was a better spectacle, I could see France were getting much better. The goal consisted of a superb run from Jeremy Menez, who crossed the ball in for a Karim Benzema tap in.
Those two players show the quality France has available, from the reliable Lloris to the skilful Gourcuff, it has its talent. And I do believe Blanc is the right man to guide them forward, back up the rankings, back to the best they can do.
It’s too early to say for certain is Laurent Blanc is the genius I’m making him out to be, but why not? Top of their qualification group, Euro 2012 on the cards.