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French Revelations: The Team To Send France Past Ireland To The World Cup

Goalkeeper

Hugo Lloris (Olympique Lyonnais):
Only a week ago, Lloris’ position would have been a nailed on certainty. However, the young OL custodian had something of a nightmare on Sunday evening against Olympique de Marseille, raising questions over his suitability for the games against the Republic of Ireland. Badly at fault for the opening two goals against les Phoceens, Lloris showed his ability to bounce back after the interval, making a stunning save from Brandao in the incredible 5-5 draw. Steve Mandanda, his nearest rival to the international gloves, does not give the defence the same assurance as the former Nice stopper, who is positive when coming for crosses – something that could be key against an Irish team expected to give les Bleus something of an aerial bombardment.

Defence

Bacary Sagna (Arsenal):
Well established as France’s first choice right-back, the former Auxerre man provides his nation with a dynamic option down the flank. Always eager to break forward, he provides assurance at the back. Rod Fanni is Domenech’s other choice in this area, but the Stade Rennais man does not command the experience of his younger counterpart, though he is as adept at bombing on.

William Gallas (Arsenal):
Has had some difficult times in the national jersey over the past year-and-a-half, like many of his team-mates, with a particular nadir coming against Austria in the opening World Cup qualifying game. That calamitous performance came in the face of a very direct opponent, and it may well be that Ireland look to exploit that very weakness in his game. Of late the 32-year-old has looked more assured for his country.

Eric Abidal (Barcelona):
The second centre-back berth has been an absolute nightmare for Domenech in this campaign. Julien Escude, Sebastien Squillaci and Philippe Mexes have all been tried in this role, but none have come close to the Barca man, who actually says that this is his preferred position, despite regularly featuring for his club on the left. It may not be an ideal solution, but he seems a satisfactory stop-gap.

Patrice Evra (Manchester United):
Completing the back four will, injury forbidding, be Evra. France is a country endowed with a plethora of exciting left-sided full-backs, with Olympique Lyonnais’ Aly Cissokho providing immediate back-up for the former Monaco man. Gael Clichy is, of course, injured, while Girondins de Bordeaux’s Benoit Tremoulinas is widely considered to be unlucky to have been overlooked. Evra’s talents are well known, and despite the competition, he is les Bleus’ best option. A real world class talent.

Midfield


Sidney Govou (Olympique Lyonnais):
After success in the latter qualifying games with a 4-4-2 formation, Domenech is not likely to alter the system, despite seemingly favouring a 4-2-3-1 framework. With Franck Ribery unavailable and Yoann Gourcuff misfiring a little a club level, Govou, who has been on hot scoring form with OL lately, should provide a great deal of impetus down the right flank. Experienced and in good touch, he may well be a player over-looked by the Irish.

Jeremy Toulalan (Olympique Lyonnais):
Another problem position for Domenech. Not that Toulalan’s abilities are the issue, rather he is carrying an adductor injury and there are serious questions about his fitness. However, the former Nantes man has been playing through the pain barrier for his club and may well be asked to do likewise for his country. A brilliant destroyer in the centre of the field when fit, it could be decided that Alou Diarra is a better option. The Bordeaux man would increase the height of the side and would pose a greater threat from set-plays, but his defensive abilities and ball retention skills are just not quite up to the level of the Lyon man.

Lassana Diarra (Real Madrid):
There is no danger of the diminutive Blanco not being called into the starting XI. Energetic and tenacious, he is one of the modern game’s best holding midfielders. Playing for the star-studded Galacticos, Diarra is often overlooked, yet he is a vital and consistent presence in their side.

Thierry Henry (Barcelona):
A definite starter. He may be unhappy at club level, but Henry, who is les Bleus’ all-time record goal scorer, will be the man the country look to during the play-offs. The captain has just come out of a goal drought for Barca, but he has been lively for France in all the games they have played since September. Will probably be deployed on the left side of midfield, where he showcased his abilities against the Faroe Islands and Austria last month. A far sterner test awaits over the coming days.

Attack

Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse):
Certainly the most obscure member of the French side to those not accustomed to watching Ligue 1. Gignac topped the scoring charts in Le Championnat last season by scoring nearly a quarter of a century of goals. He may only have three so far this time around, but don’t take that necessarily as indicating a dramatic dip in his form. A shift in Toulouse’s style has partly caused this lull, but Gignac has been hot for his country, registering four times in his last five internationals. Though he looks a bustling targetman, he is capable of scoring from long-range, with his strike against Austria last time out a particular stunner. An unheralded danger, and perhaps France’s secret weapon.

Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea):
Overshadowed at club level by the imperious Didier Drogba, Anelka has perhaps never quite lived up to his billing on the international stage. Thirteen goals are all he has mustered for les Bleus, which is a rather small tally for a player of his talents, especially as he has turned out 61 times, so perhaps it’s time he made a major contribution.

Wildcard

Moussa Sissoko (Toulouse):
Capped just twice for les Bleus, the 20-year-old midfielder has been christened as the ‘next Patrick Vieira’. At domestic level he is flourishing, having become a real leader for his side over the course of the last three months. Indeed, he has done enough to suggest that he is up to the challenge of playing a significant role in this encounter, so if Toulalan is not fully fit, or if Domenech goes with five in midfield, there may yet be space for the dynamic box-to-boxer, who has already scored six Ligue 1 goals this term. With Yoann Gourcuff having failed to produce his best form in the last month, this youngster is one who could grab his chance of rising to prominence.

Is this team correct? Would it be good enough to defeat the Boys In Green? Has Domenech called the correct players in the first place? Goal.com wants to know what you think…


Robin Bairner, Goal.com