Goal.com's Robin Bairner reflects upon les Bleus' triumph over the Tricolorii...France walked a dangerous tightrope between triumph and disaster against Romania, but ultimately passed the test set to them by the Tricolorii. Stifled for 80 minutes, les Bleus had long shown signs of frustration, yet they managed to scrape themselves together to record a 2-0 victory, thanks largely to the proactivity of coach Laurent Blanc.
In l’Hexagone they call it ‘coaching gagnant’, which translates to ‘coaching win’, that is, the ability of the trainer to turn the game on its head with a tactical or personnel switch.
Only in patches had les Bleus threatened to pick apart their guests. Samir Nasri was unquestionably the most effective offensive force in the first hour of the game. His dribbles and passes were frequently incisive, although he lacked the cool head in front of Costel Pantilimon’s goal when his own ingenuity had created a chance.
Mathieu Valbuena had also shown himself to be a worry for the Eastern Europeans as he combined well with Anthony Reveillere down the right to pose all kinds of issues for the yellow-clad guests. While the firefly winger was a problem, it was the full-back who did much of the damage down the flank as the Olympique de Marseille man’s crossing was frequently errant.
Nevertheless, Blanc played with fire as he withdrew the sparky winger to replace him with club-mate Loic Remy, whose direct approach combined perfectly with the Romanians’ increasingly offensive stance to break the deadlock. The former Nice man sprinted onto a long ball forward from the excellent Alou Diarra to finish sweetly from a tight angle with 83 minutes on the clock.
But the inclusion of Remy was not the only blow dealt by the French bench. Yoann Gourcuff had been sent on somewhat surprisingly to replace Nasri, yet the Olympique Lyonnais playmaker would certainly make his mark on this encounter. Having kept the ball in little more than a neat and tidy fashion, the offensive midfielder lashed home from 12 yards after a positive burst down the right from Dimitri Payet.
Saint-Etienne star Payet, of course, was another replacement. In little under 10 minutes on the field, the Reunion-born 23-year-old made quite an impression on his international debut. Showing the kind of form that has taken him to seven Ligue 1 goals in just eight matches, the winger contributed more in his brief cameo than Karim Benzema, the man he replaced, had mustered in the previous 84.
Payet set his stall out immediately, breaking down the flank before cutting inside to have a shot beaten away by the goalkeeper, and on his second foray into enemy territory he instead chose the byline as his destination, from where he pulled a pass back for Gourcuff to pounce.
After years of enduring the baffling coaching decisions of Raymond Domenech, France finally have a man on the sidelines they can trust once more. On Saturday evening, Blanc showed that he would not shirk the big decisions, but equally he showed patience and intelligence to address the problems facing his side in a pragmatic manner, and on this occasion his solutions worked.
Still, ‘Le President’ will hope for a less vexing evening on Tuesday, when les Bleus will meet Luxembourg in Metz.
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