Laurent Blanc seemed to have been settled on his defensive line going into Euro 2012, but the Manchester United man's performance against Iceland casts doubt upon that
By Robin Bairner | France Expert
France narrowly avoided the fate of Germany and Netherlands in slumping to a shock friendly defeat in their first Euro 2012 warm-up match, rallying from two down to overcome Iceland 3-2 in Valenciennes on Sunday night thanks to a couple of goals in the last six minutes of the encounter. Although there were some clear positives to be taken from the match, coach Laurent Blanc was given plenty to worry him, too.
Les Bleus needed all of their 33 shots – a record for the national side under Blanc - to record their success, with the introduction of Franck Ribery and, more pertinently, Olivier Giroud from the bench required to act as the catalyst to a dramatic turnaround.
At half-time, Iceland held a shock 2-0 lead against a dismal French defence. The weak spot the Islanders had found was not down the channel of international new-boy Mathieu Debuchy, but on the opposite flank, where the much-decorated Patrice Evra patrolled.
|EVRA'S EVENING TO FORGET
|FROM OUR LIVE COMMENTARY|
|27'||GOOOALL!! Well there were shocks yesterday, and Iceland have followed the smaller nations. Birkir Bjarnason with a fantastic half-volley to power past Steve Mandanda. Evra was asleep there. Poor defending from the Man Utd man.|
| PLAYER RATING
|3.5||Not a favourite of the French crowd by any means, and the Manchester United man did little to enamour the home fans as his sleepy defending allowed the visitors in to score the opening goal. Was then outpaced as the Icelanders struck their second. A decidedly poor showing, and his position must come into question.|
For both of Iceland’s goals he was caught napping badly, with replays highlighting his amateurish lack of urgency.
Of course, this was shown up all the more by similar lapses from captain-for-the-night Philippe Mexes, who was playing inside Evra as the left-sided centre-back and is no stranger to difficult evenings for the international side. The AC Milan man endured some torrid nights during the reign of Raymond Domenech but had, for the most part, been reliable under Blanc.
However, his mind appeared to already be in Poland and Ukraine on Sunday as his anticipation was found wanting. He was out-jumped by Kolbeinn Sigthorsson in the lead up to the opening goal, and five minutes later he could have done more to cut out a cross that resulted in the second.
Blanc will probably be prepared to persevere with Mexes, as he has served him well over the last two years, but Evra is no favourite of the French public following his part in the World Cup 2010 rebellion, during which he was a key protagonist in the team going on strike. After a difficult domestic season, his place must now be called into question.
Gael Clichy could well be given a chance to shine against Serbia on Thursday, and though he will not admit it, the France coach must have a thought in the back of his head that omitting Valencia’s Jeremy Mathieu, or even his former Bordeaux charge Benoit Tremoulinas, was an ill-judged move.
Contrast the debacle on the left of the defence to the relative security of the inexperienced right. On just his second international start, Debuchy, who would now surely be first pick whether or not the injured Bacary Sagna was fit, once again excelled, offering a fine attacking threat and even drawing France back into the game with a close-range finish early in the second half. Right centre back Adil Rami was largely secure too and even found time to smash home the winning goal.
Ironically, on an evening in which Blanc gave fringe players the opportunity to shine, his biggest headache came in a position he was largely settled upon. The abject nature of Evra’s performance means that it’s only right his position comes under scrutiny - his combination with Mexes on the left side of Les Bleus’ rearguard has given real hope to France’s Euro 2012 opponents.
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