France Camp Focus – Les Bleus manage to clinch a draw with Tunisia but fail to impress

France fought back to earn a 1-1 draw with Tunisia in their latest friendly ahead of South Africa 2010. Coach Raymond Domenech admitted he is concerned about the team’s recent habit of conceding first and during the early stages of games, as happened during the Costa Rica match and again in the friendly against the Tunisians. Domenech started with the four defenders expected to be first choices in South Africa barring injury – with Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Eric Abidal and Patrice Evra in front of returning goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. The Coach made a single change to the team that started against Costa Rica: Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda losing his place after a less than convincing performance.

Domenech persisted with Nicolas Anelka in attack with Franck Ribery and Sidney Govou in support, but the trio failed to shine and the Chelsea striker in particular must be concerned about his chances of starting matches in South Africa. Anelka was rarely visible, but cannot be blamed for his poor performance because the French midfield struggled to break down an organised and energetic Tunisian side playing for pride. Les Bleus managed to score an equaliser courtesy of a free-kick met by captain Gallas, who played over an hour as he stepped up his preparations for a return to full fitness. The goal was not impressive but the skipper was able to last around 65 minutes on the pitch, which should be a relief for Domenech who has yet to figure out the best line-up for France particularly in attack.

The unpopular tactician brought Thierry Henry off the bench for the second consecutive game. Yet the once unstoppable forward looks a shadow of the player who once starred for the Gunners and tormented some of the best English Premier League defenders. The sluggish attacking showing forced Domenech to delve deeper into his bench and bring on Djibril Cisse to provide some inspiration. Cisse had not played for France since March 3, 2010 when the Coach recalled him after a prolonged absence. The Panathinaikos striker was not able to change much in terms of the dynamics of the match but he was only given 15 minutes to impress, so it will be interesting to see whether he is given playing time in South Africa, after Domenech surprisingly kept Marseille’s Mathieu Valbuena on the bench. The diminutive attacking midfielder sealed the victory against Costa Rica and was set to earn more time on the pitch. However, the Coach rarely seems to disappoint when it comes to making an odd decision or contradicting what the majority believe will be his next move.

Following the Tunisia match Domenech announced his main concern was France’s lacklustre start to matches, which has seen the team leak goals early on, but he failed to mention France’s inability to break down opposing teams. Now France risk a repeat of World Cup 2002 when Les Bleus exited after a humiliating campaign which saw the French fail to find the back of the net. One striking coincidence is the presence of Uruguay once again in the same group as France. The two teams played to a 0-0 draw in 2002 and will renew their rivalry when they meet on June 11, the opening day of the World Cup. The French supporters will be hoping this will not be a bad omen and there will be no repeat of the miserable results from 2002 which have another common feature with this World Cup: Zinedine Zidane missed 2002 through injury and will miss this tournament after retirement.

With the tournament’s kick-off fast approaching, Domenech has little time left for further experimentation but he seems unconvinced with Henry’s ability to mirror his better performances – forcing the Coach to look elsewhere for inspiration. Domenech inexplicably left Valbuena on the bench despite the spark he provided and the fine finish he applied to his winning strike against Costa Rica. Abou Diaby was left on the bench till the second-half, despite his solid showing in the previous match, implying Domenech has a preference for using only J


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