France won the qualifying Group 3 with two games to spare and an 100% record thanks to a 4-0 win against Ukraine yesterday.
It was an evening for redemption for the French players : first game in 2016 with a goal scored that was not a penalty. First game with multiple goals in 2016.
The full qualifying results look good but are hiding the poor current form :
Romania H 3-0 Ukraine A 3-0 Albania A 6-0 Greece A 3-0 Romania A 1-0 Ukraine H 4-0
These are good results but as the third ranked team in the world by FIFA, France are expected to win those games comfortably.
If we look at the 2016 results, they certainly paint another picture :
Norway N 1-0 Necib pen
Germany N 0-1
USA N 0-1
England N 0-0
Romania A 1-0 Bussaglia ( pen)
Ukraine H 4-0 Hamraoui, Abily, OG, Majri
As the recent results show, the biggest problem for France is finishing and has been since the Euros 2009. Bruno Bini never found the solution to the problem, despite having an all attacking ball possession orientated team that was creating chances but never finishing them when it mattered. Hence the Euro 09 QF, WC 11 4th place, OG 12 4th place and Euro 13 QF.
He was sacked and replaced by Phillipe Bergeroo who brought a “more professional” approach, his football is more pragmatic. He improved the fitness area, where France where behind the big teams and the players are now stronger than ever, but they still cannot score when it matters for some reason as seen during the WC 15 where France lost in the QF.
Bergeroo had been using for two years a classic 4-4-2 formation with three players competing for the forwards positions ( Thiney, Delie and Le Sommer). But having decided not to call up Thiney after the World Cup, he has tried in training many youmg forwards. But he has shown little faith to put them on the pitch, therefore he seems to have switched to a 4-5-1 formation where either Le Sommer or Delie are the lone striker. This switch also involves putting Necib at number and Majri on the wing, where she can play with more freedom than at left-back as seen against Romania.
The Rio Olympics are coming soon and it will be the last competition for many 30+ years old in the squad who then will vacate their spot to youngsters in preparation for the WC19 that will be played at home in France. The question marks still remain on this team’s ability to score goals in the big games that matter and we will only know if things have improved during the Olympic tournament.
As usual fitness might be a factor as well, so if Bergeroo does not rotate his squad enough, France will end up like they did in Canada where the players were exhausted from the 60th minute of the QF game against Germany and could not find the needed goal.
Hopefully that generation of players can come home with a medal for all their efforts through the years, otherwise it will be a sad end to their careers.