How to explain the decline of the Blues for months?


The alchemy of a collective sports team obeys a precious balance that sometimes evaporates without saying goodbye. Thus, the France team, which we thought was still firmly rooted in its globalist certainties after the victory against Germany at the Euro, on June 15, seems to have become the result of a motley and badly made assembly. barely three months later, to the point of wondering if they will be able to beat Finland at Parc OL on Tuesday.

“We have been talked about a lot, saying the best team in the world. We are no longer the best team in the world, summarizes Paul Pogba in his own way in an interview with M6. It’s like that, and you have to be proud because it pisses me off not to win with the France team. For the moment, everything is too laborious ”. Why and how did the French team lose track? Can she still find herself? 20 minutes leans at the bedside of the patient.

A lack of creativity with the ball

This is one of the paradoxes of the return of Karim Benzema, recalled to give another dimension to the offensive expression of the Blues, which the coach considered more and more insufficient since the end of 2020. The Madrilenian brought his natural class and nothing has happened. can be blamed for his behavior or his statistics, but since his return, it’s as if the Blues no longer put a spike in front of the other in the construction of their attacks placed

What jumps out first? The slowness of the ball coming back and the disappearance of preferential offensive circuits apart from the endless in-depth pass from Pogba to Karim or Kylian. An option that has had its success in recent matches, but which cannot decently hide an overall creative slump, which highlights all the recurring faults of the Blues:

  • Central offices that do not make any sharp pass on the relaunch.
  • Too unbalanced intake of the laterals between the left side and the right side.
  • Midfielders who do not take responsibility for creating the game or do not have the profile for it (Ndombélé or Aouar, in another life …).
  • An inoperative Griezmann on the right, where he now plays most of the time.

“We have to set the pace, manage our efforts. It’s up to us to make the difference, up to us to speed up, argued Karim Benzema on Téléfoot on Sunday. If you keep the ball behind, you have to play fast, make vertical passes to hurt your opponent. We have the players for that, technical players. We must not fall into the rhythm set by the opponent ”. This is perhaps the most worrying: In Ukraine as against Bosnia, the France team has never been able to play a speed above the opponent.

A state of mind in disintegration

It had been a long time since we had heard Hugo Lloris publicly annoyed with the attitude of his team. With his words, always put and counted, but still. « There are the requirements of the very high level and we must meet them, » he recalled after Ukraine, a way of saying that it is time to stop playing on its achievements. The captain of the Blues is not the type to put mines in the media and if it has come to this, it is because he feels that the state of mind, the basis of any performance, is not there. not. The most astonishing is that the slap of the Euro was not enough.

The Blues had accustomed us in recent years to take a little over the leg some games against smaller than them, but then knew how to prove that it was an accident. After these five draws in a row, which is more by conceding the opening of the scoring, it does not hold any more. « We still manage to be surprised on this kind of match when we know what to expect, » noted Adrien Rabiot on Sunday in Téléfoot. Also annoyed, Paul Pogba pointed out in the same program the current shortcomings of the France team: “It is up to us on the ground to make the efforts, to put the opportunities, to put the tackle to avoid the goal. Everything else, tactics and all that comes after. Our flame has dropped a little and we have to rekindle it. « 

Individual failures

It’s always a little tricky when not much is going well, but hard not to target a few problematic cases in this team. We must stop pretending to discover the irregularity of Presnel Kimpembe, perhaps the best French stopper when he is in good shape but has always been guilty of errors in placement, recovery or fatal jumps in concentration. If Samuel Umtiti had been able to redeem a knee after the World Cup, we would certainly not be there. But left-handed candidates are not legion, considering that Clément Lenglet missed the wagon for a while. If Lucas Hernandez had been available for this comeback, DD would have tried to put him in the line? We would like to see anyway.

Not far from there, the right-back position is still badly damaged. Pavard had a dream month in Russia but will never be a full-back able to constantly animate his corridor, no more than Jules Koundé, to whom DD did not give a gift by sending him to the front in full Euro without heating tower. To be satisfied with Léo Dubois, much too neutral, would be a failure. There is more to do all-in on Nordi Mukiele, who discovers the group during this rally and who deserves to be seen on Tuesday.

Jules Koundé expelled for a tackle not at all mastered during France-Bosnia.
Jules Koundé expelled for a tackle not at all mastered during France-Bosnia. – Jean-Francois Badias / AP / SIPA

We also expect more from Pogba, natural leader in the field, capable of bright passes like the offering wasted by Martial in Kiev just before the Ukrainian opening scoring, but who tends to complicate life when things are skating around him. . « I put myself in there, it’s everyone’s fault, » he said on Sunday when commenting on the current difficulties.

Let us also quote the Tolisso, Coman, Lemar, Rabiot or Martial, supposed to bring consistency to the group and to embody a real alternative in case of need. A mission they fulfill on even days when Saturn aligns with Pluto, or so. For a whole lot of reasons but on which there is no time to dwell when we talk about the national team.

The Grizou case

We set him apart because he embodies the Deschamps generation. And his decline in influence in the game does not coincide by chance with the porridge of the moment. On Tuesday, Antoine Griezmann will stretch his record streak to 55 matches in a row in the selection without missing a single one, and he has never seemed so lost on the pitch. At the same time cornerstone and variable of adjustment according to the tactics of the day, it weighs more at the moment only by its number of tackles in the opposing feet (6 in Ukraine, more than any other player). Not exactly what is expected of him, even if it’s part of his game.

DD is not about to let go of his soldier, however. « If there are examples to take, it’s him, » he hammered Monday, highlighting « his effectiveness in relation to the number of balls and the situations ». Between the support of his coach and his return to Atlético, Grizou has everything to get back to the place. Everyone is waiting for this.


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