Sunday, July 10, 2016

France 0, Portugal 1

Soccer is a funny game. In the first 15 minutes, it looked like France was far superior, but they just didn't want to score. Portugal grew into the game, and France faded. It was similar to France beating Germany in the semifinal.

Sissoko, who I voted against starting, was the most lively, but with no end product. Coman, when he did come on, looked fantastic, but only for the first 15 minutes or so.

France came close to scoring, but had no luck today, where we had good luck earlier in the tournament.

If Deschamps had taken took off Payet in the first match as early as he did today, we never would have had the brilliant winner that kicked off this run to the final.

Deschamps, and most coaches I guess, leave it to the players to figure it out themselves. So Pogba did what he had to do, and played defensive midfield. Sissoko saw everyone else was too nervous to play, so he moved from the right into the middle, and tried to score himself.

Both teams hit the wood work before Portugal finally got their goal.

A win would have been nice, but a run to the final deserves to be remembered in its own right. France was brilliant in the 2006 World Cup, only losing on penalties at the end after having been the better team. France was easily the better team for most of this final, but the final ball just wasn't there.

Disappointing, even frustrating, but the best way to put it right is to get out onto a soccer field ourselves, and show them how it's done.

Today's final

The buildup to the final today has focussed on Griezmann, and to a lesser extent Pogba, perhaps clearing the way for a big match from Payet. Ahead of the tournament and in the group phase, he was France's best player, so as strange as it sounds, he could be the secret weapon.

As well as Sissoko has done, I cannot get past my impression that Coman would be a better option on the right. Likewise with Matuidi, I think Kante has slightly more to his game and would make a better pick with Pogba in central midfield - maybe I am wrong and it would upset the balance, but I think Kante deserves a start.

Also in the buildup, Portugal are being portrayed as rank outsiders, which makes me curious to see how they look. They must have been disjointed to this point.

At the back, Umtiti got rave reviews for his performance in the semifinal for breaking up play, so he should keep his spot.

Finals are tense. I am nervous myself.

Enjoy the match.

Update: No changes to the France starting 11 from the quarterfinal and semifinal. Those 4 first-half goals sealed it. Bear in mind that was against Iceland.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

France 2, Germany 0 - France to face Portugal in the Euro 2016 final

France started in the round of 4 with the same team that started in the round of 8 and scored 4 first half goals:

Giroud Griezmann
Payet Matuidi Pogba Sissoko
Evra Umtiti Koscielny Sagna

Griezmann scored the goals. The first was a first-half stoppage time handball penalty gift, and the second was set up by Pogba and Giroud after a sloppy giveaway.

This was a counterattack win. France absorbed the pressure and pounced on a couple mistakes.

My impression during much of the first half was that Germany looked great. They always seemed to have two options, and over the course of the 90 minutes they created a frightening number of chances. A combination of poor finishing, unlucky finishing, and Hugo Lloris kept them out.

France played the ball to Sissoko on the right at every opportunity, and Griezmann looked brilliantly dangerous on the counterattack. Koscielny looked great in defense, and Umtiti is great on the ball, but poor in the air. Griezmann and Giroud are fantastic in the air, and I seem to recall Giroud heading clear in defense a couple times.

Matuidi is solid in positioning, and slotted into the back four a few times.

The subs were Kante, Gignac, and Cabaye at the very end.

I would like to see Pogba more involved, but there was only one goal from open play, and he was the playmaker, so job well done to him. More often, he was pointing out to his teammates that there were better options than himself. Who can argue with the result? Similarly, Payet was rarely involved, especially compared to Sissoko.

Sagna was old reliable. Lloris was brilliant, it bears repeating. Evra, the favorite of few, can control the ball.

Let's hope for the same result and a better performance in the final. Come on you Blues!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

France 5, Iceland 2 - France through to the semi-finals to play Germany

France finally scored some goals, ending the first half 4-0! First half goals from Giroud, Pogba, Payet, and Griezmann. Giroud got a second goal in the second half.

Iceland won the second half 2-1, but it was disjointed and casual from France.

We switched to a 4-4-2 for this match, and I read that Griezmann had successfully lobbied to play centrally for the previous match, or at least the second half of it, which has been working well. Soccer is a strange, nearly random game at times.

What is up with conceding two goals against Iceland? Shocking.

We started with:

Giroud Griezmann
Payet Matuidi Pogba Sissoko
Evra Umtiti Koscielny Sagna

Iceland could have scored a couple more in the second half; Lloris had a good save.

Pogba played deep, replacing Kante. Koscienly switched positions to play on the right side of central defense.

France looked tired and injury prone in the second half, so it was nice to escape with no obvious injuries that would cause someone to miss the semi-final.

Giroud was great. Payet and Griezmann were great. Pogba was great. Sagna was great. Evra could have conceded another penalty; he, more than most, was overly casual in the second half.

Umtiti mostly looked good, and there was a connection between him and Pogba; perhaps this was related to Pogba playing so deep. In attack, sometimes the formation looked more like this:

Payet Griezmann Sissoko
Evra Matuidi Sagna
Umtiti Koscielny

Payet is picking his moments; Pogba and Griezmann look like the leaders. Who knows what to expect in the semi-final? I would favor France to beat Germany given the mysterious psychological advantage of playing at home. Both teams are loaded with good, although inconsistent, players.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Umtiti and Cabaye likely to start against Iceland

Rami and Kante are suspended for the Iceland match, and it sounds like Barcelona's new signing, Umtiti, will come into central defense, and Cabaye will start in deep-lying central midfield.

Cabaye should do well. He looked a little slow, I thought, when he started in the third match of the group phase, but against Iceland he should be comfortable, and his long-range passing could open opportunities.

Umtiti was the captain, I believe, in the team with Pogba (and Griezmann?) that won the Under-20 World Cup (or rough equivalent youth tournament) a few years ago. I like the spirit of brining in Umtiti, especially with the coincidence of him just having signed for Barcelona. He should be full of confidence and spirit.

I really hope France have a big match, and a clear victory. Come on you Blues.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

France through to the last 8

I was on the road during the match, but having seen the periods of play leading up to the three goals:

France was in a panic to start the match; again players were falling over, and it looked a bit like a dive from Ireland for the penalty. Disastrous start: France 0, Ireland 1.

In the 2nd half, Griezmann got the two goals we needed for the win. He has had a brilliant career at such a young age. He scored his 2nd header of this tournament, this time from a Bacary Sagna cross, and Giroud headed a ball into his path for the winner.

Griezmann is on fire.

In the round of 8, we have Iceland. We are due a convincing match from start to finish. A goal fest would be nice. Pogba and Coman are due for some goals.

Giroud continues to do well. He has a goal and an assist. His help setting up the winner against Ireland was fantastic.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Preferred front six

Payet Griezmann Coman
Matuidi Pogba Kante

This front six would exclude Giroud, Martial, Gignac, Sissoko, and Cabaye who had playing time in the first three matches.

In my mind, this front six would be terrorizing the opposition. I like Giroud, just not as much as Payet, Griezmann, and Coman. Giroud is tall, wins headers, and helps with buildup play, but these players look more promising despite that.

Matuidi provides a structure to the team, and when things are going well, he gets forward and scores goals. With the stability of Matuidi and Kante, Pogba should have a more attacking central role, similar to the way he played in the first half against Switzerland.

The counterattacking with Payet, Griezmann, Coman, and Pogba would be fun to watch. Giroud and Martial could come on as subs.