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Philippe Mexes Is Finally France’s Leader Now That Raymond Domenech Is Gone

Philippe Mexes Is Finally France’s Leader Now That Raymond Domenech Is Gone

A goal against Luxembourg on Friday night helped further establish Mexes as a key player in the France set-up...

It’s ironic that as Philippe Mexes endures a difficult season in Serie A with Roma, he has finally established himself as the keystone defender he has for so long expected to be for France.

Even while Karim Benzema’s renaissance continues, Yoann Gourcuff keeps getting on the scoresheet and Samir Nasri is handed the captain’s armband, there can be little doubt that Laurent Blanc’s revolution of les Bleus has been built around the Lupi defender, who has been their steadiest presence since ‘Le President’ took charge of the side.

Friday evening’s encounter against Luxembourg was by no means the centre-back’s most impressive display at international level. He was too keen to make challenges, giving away clumsy and potentially costly fouls away around the outside of the box, but it proved to be a memorable event  as the 28-year-old defender scored his first goal for his country.

Make no bones about it; France were struggling when Mexes rose to powerfully head a free kick into the home net during the first half, but this decisive contribution settled Blanc’s men, putting them on the path towards a professional but not entirely comfortable 2-0 victory.

Nasri appeared to be weighed down with the expectation the armband brings. Whether it was a tactical ploy gone awry or the Arsenal man’s sheer desire to be involved, he too often dropped into alien deep areas, where he tried to do too much with possession, surrendering the ball in a dangerous fashion.

Elsewhere, Franck Ribery was anonymous for long periods when stuck out on the right, only coming to life in the last 15 minutes when asked to switch wings, while fellow summer renegade Patrice Evra endured a very difficult night against the most modest of international opposition.

Mexes was not flawless, but his contribution was again profound.

While his contribution offensively under Blanc has never been as decisive, there can be little doubting the robustness of his defensive actions when playing for his country over the last season, with performances against England and Brazil, during which les Bleus achieved shut-outs, especially noteworthy.

Remarkably, this has not always been the case. During Raymond Domenech’s reign, Mexes look uneasy in the middle of the rearguard, but little wonder given the way the coach so explicitly voiced his concerns over the former Auxerre man.

Blanc’s appointment may have harked a new start for the previously ailing national team, but it has only been able to do so because of the confidence placed in Mexes, who has led by example on the field despite having been overlooked for the captaincy.