Providing that Les Bleues manage to go through to the quarter-final round, fitness is likely to cost the French team dear as it has done in previous competitions.
Beating New-Zealand should happen for the FIFA number 3 ranked team and therefore would set up a quarter final tie against either :
a) Group F winner ( Canada/Germany) should France finish runner-up in group F with USA likely to beat Colombia
b) The third placed team from Group E/F ( potentially China/ Sweden/Germnay/Australia) in the unlikely event of France winning the group
c) The Group E winner ( very likely Brazil) if France go through as one of the two best third placed team.
The biggest problem for France, besides being unable to score goals when it matters, is the fitness level. For some reasons that are difficult to explain, the French players never seem to be able to compete with a team like the USA on fitness level.
The gap was huge between the two countries around Bruno Bini’s time as the philosophy was an attacking one with France trying to outsmart the opposition with attacking play rather than enter the physical side of the challenge.
Then Phillipe Bergeroo came in, changed the set-up and managed to reduce the fitness gap with an excellent trainer in Fred Aubert, but it was not enough as seen at the World Cup in Canada.
Those who witnessed the quarter-final game against Germany saw the drop in physical performance from the French players from the 60th minute onwards until the end of extra-time. Note that the indoor Olympic Stadium pitch in Montreal was responsible for unusual physiological parameters apparently and France played two consecutive games there.
The reason for this energy level drop was explained as a lack of squad rotation during the Group stage because of the defeat against Colombia. It is nothing new as we seem to always do the same kind of squad rotation throughout any tournament, be it U17/u19 Euros or U17/U19 World Cup.
It is a regular pattern for France’s squad. Rotate to rest and protect. All the winning tournaments for France at youth level saw that kind of squad rotation with every player involved.
That defeat against the USA on Friday means Phillipe Bergeroo is likely to keep the same 11 save for Le Sommer to replace Delie and maybe another change in midfield, but no wholesale change that would have had happened otherwise.
So if France manage to beat New Zeland tonight, the team will have a tough quarter-final game and might run out of fuel should they make it to the semi-finals. And as we all know, deploying an expensive attacking game, need sharpness and technical accuracy, which is incompatible with tiredness. Not to mention the finishing problem that is well know to everyone.
Let’s hope we can score early enough and multiple goals against New -Zealand and save some potential tired legs tonight.