Some issues are still unresolved for boss
There was no nervous sweat for France against Luxembourg on Tuesday evening as they swept the team from the Grand Duchy aside, recording a third successive 2-0 victory.
Despite dominating play and winning thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Yoann Gourcuff, it was not a perfect night for Laurent Blanc’s side, who would have liked a greater margin of success against the minnows.
In terms of comfort, les Bleus could barely have asked for more. Aside from one long ball forward in the first half that was cleared by the head of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the defence was never stretched. Alou Diarra dominated the midfield, while Abou Diaby pushed on effectively and menaced with his long range shooting.
But there are still questions over France’s offence. A lack of width meant that they struggled to prise the Luxembourgers open in regular play – both goals derived from set-pieces – and when the blue-clad hosts did fashion an opening, it was inevitably spurned.
Gourcuff, who wasn’t as effective in a creative role - albeit a slightly different one - as Samir Nasri on Saturday in the victory over Romania, should fear for his place in the side. But Blanc must also weigh up the fact that the Lyon man has managed two goals and an assist in the last two internationals, one of which the 24-year-old only played a cameo in.
This is a happy problem for the French boss, but there remains a headache in attack, where les Bleus remain inefficient. Paris Saint-Germain striker Guillaume Hoarau has shown he can cut it at club level, but on the international scene he has yet to fire, looking indecisive against Luxembourg when given the chance to partner Benzema.
While it would be harsh to totally dismiss the Reunion-born striker, who can at least provide useful aerial ability that no other top French striker possesses, it’s too much to ask that he assumes the mantle of starter in the coming games.
Then there is the Benzema problem. Sure, the Real Madrid man found the net on Tuesday evening, but he seemed to be responsive rather than proactive, waiting for the ball and chances to drop to him rather than seeking him out. Even for his strike, he was simply loitering around the back post when poor defending allowed a corner to drop to him, though his finish was admittedly immaculate.
Time to step up | Hoarau needs to prove worth on international stage
Blanc lacks other proven options in attack, and it may be wise to give players such as Loic Remy and Dimitri Payet, who have proven their worth in the two recent games, an extended run in the forthcoming friendlies against England and Brazil. Payet in particular has given the coach real cause for excitement after two excellent substitute appearances, though it’s too early to get too carried away given that he’s played little more than 30 minutes of international football against modest opposition.
‘Le President’ is canny enough in his approach to recognise that too many alterations in the forthcoming matches would be folly, despite their friendly nature allowing for some experimentation.
This France team is very much a work in progress, and though the machine is still nearing completion, there is some slight tinkering of components that must be done before it starts to run smoothly. Belarus aside, it’s so far, so good for Blanc.