France Euro 2012 Focus – Blanc reliant on attacking power

Laurent Blanc’s France side opened their Euro 2012 campaign with a respectable and well-earned 1-1 draw against rivals England on Monday evening. Les Bleus were given an early scare when Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott headed their opponents ahead from a glorious Steven Gerrard free-kick, but Lescott’s club teammate Samir Nasri equalised with a 20-yard drive before half-time to ensure that both teams shared the spoils.

That result meant France have still not won a single tournament fixture since their slender 1-0 semi-final victory over Portugal at the 2006 World Cup. However there were enough positives in their performance against England to suggest that the French could go far in this competition once they settle.

There were very few surprises in Blanc’s starting line-up. Other than Marseille’s Alou Diarra, who deputised for the injured Yann M’Vila in defensive midfield, and winger Florent Malouda, who covered for Loic Remy, all other players who had been expected to start did so. The manager is unlikely to tinker much with his side ahead of the clash against Group D leaders Ukraine, though M’Vila could be handed some game time if he is deemed to be fit enough.

One of France’s most impressive players against England was Newcastle target Mathieu Debuchy. The industrious right-back was defensively solid, while also useful as an attacking outlet. However, there are still some worries over the centre-back pairing of Philippe Mexes and Adil Rami and they will have to be wary when coming up against Andrei Shevchenko, who scored twice against Sweden on Monday night.

However, Les Bleus will be confident of their chances over the co-hosts given their terrific 22-match unbeaten run. A win over Ukraine would give Blanc’s men a good chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the tournament, but a shock defeat would be equally as obstructive to their hopes.

A significant factor as to whether France are good enough to progress to the semi-final or indeed the final stage could depend on where they finish in Group D. Should they avoid world champions Spain in the next round, then Blanc, who has been playing down the nation’s hopes, could well start to plot a route to the latter stages.

But despite the relatively impressive display against England, the main fact is that France failed to beat the Three Lions, which indicates that there are still some weaknesses which will have to be ironed out if the 2006 World Cup finalists are to work their way through the group and knockout stages. With the likes of Nasri, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema however, Les Bleus should have enough attacking talent to reach the next round.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Ukraine v France

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