Squad for Norway-France friendly. And, yes, no World Cup players.

Benzema, Nasri and Mexes...three guys that should have never been off the team, are back.

Well, this is kind of the moment that we have been waiting for. After the debacle that was Raymond Domenech, supporters of the French National Team were wondering what direction new manager Laurent Blanc was going to guide the team.

And by his first selection of player for the friendly against Norway, it is still hard to tell.

But even with it being hard to tell, we are kind of seeing what personnel are maybe in and out.

One promise that Blanc made a few weeks ago is that there would be no World Cup players on this team. And this was a promise that he was able to keep. With the exception of Lassana Diarra (who was expected to play in the World Cup but couldn’t), this squad is a totally new look for those of you who either casually watch France, or watch the French on a regular basis.

So, lets dive right into the roster. Here is the squad that Blanc released today for the Norway friendly:

GARDIENS : Stéphane Ruffier (Monaco), Nicolas Douchez (Rennes).

DÉFENSEURS : Rod Fanni (Rennes), Adil Rami (Lille), Philippe Mexès (AS Rome/ITA), Mamadou Sakho (Paris-SG), Benoît Trémoulinas (Bordeaux), Aly Cissokho (Lyon), Mathieu Debuchy (Lille).

MILIEUX :
Lassana Diarra (Real Madrid/ESP), Moussa Sissoko (Toulouse), Yann M’Vila (Rennes), Samir Nasri (Arsenal/ANG), Yohan Cabaye (Lille), Charles N’Zogbia (Wigan/ANG), Blaise Matuidi (Saint-Etienne).

ATTAQUANTS : Hatem Ben Arfa (Marseille), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/ESP), Loïc Rémy (Nice), Jimmy Briand (Lyon), Jérémy Ménez (AS Rome/ITA), Guillaume Hoarau (Paris-SG).

First, lets start with the goalkeepers. Again, for anyone to expect the exclusion of Hugo Lloris or Steve Mandanda from the regular line up is just crazy. In addition, the former Bordeaux manager doesn’t have the services of his former keeper right now anyway, Cedric Carrasso. These three are still the top keepers in France.

Still, there are a few interesting notes here, even in a position that is pretty much locked solid. First, Stephane Ruffier gets a call up for France. Ruffier, with his stellar play at Monaco last year, has recently been considered an outside #3 choice at keeper. And at the age of 23, he could give Carrasso a run for his money. The main question is if Blanc will favor Carrasso because he was his keeper at Bordeaux last year, or not?

The second interesting note is the exclusion of Mickaël Landreau from the team. Landreau, a player that deserved to play for France, but always had extremely stiff competition, was considered the de facto fourth choice last year, mostly because of his good form at Lille last year. Therefore, it seems like we have seen the last of Landreau in a French uniform. Also, Rennes’ Nicolas Douchez was called up last year by Domenech, but don’t expect him to knock out any favorites in the goalkeeper category.

Now lets look at the defense. Again, no World Cup players. And even with no World Cup players, we won’t be seeing William Gallas and Patrice Evra coming back anyway (we expect). So, what should we look for in the new French defense?

First, Philippe Mexès gets back on the French team. Many French fans have been asking for the inclusion of Mexès to the squad. And every time Domenech had a chance to put him on it, he would pass Mexès up. So, finally, a player that many have been expecting on the squad will maybe become a regular instead of a passer-by. He should be a starter for France in the friendly.

Second, the fight will now start at the left back position to replace Patrice Evra, maybe. Again, we really don’t know what is happening with this situation, as Blanc has stated that Evra isn’t necessarily off the team, as of now. Still, with the exclusion of Evra, we will finally get to see if one of the other players has what it takes to replace the Manchester Untied star. First, Aly Cissokho must be counting his blessings that he didn’t make the final cut of the World Cup team, and thus is able to play in this friendly against Norway.  Still, will we see Bordeaux’s favorite son Benoit Tremoulinas has what it takes as well. Maybe Tremoulinas will play the second half? It will be an interesting battle between these two players, who have all the skill to play the left-back position at the international level.

Third, Adil Ramy, with his impressive season at Lille, will finally get a chance to wear his country’s jersey. Also, PSG’s Mamadou Sakho finally gets promotion from the U-21 squad to the senior squad. Mathieu Debuchy, more of a defensive midfielder than a defender, also makes the squad.

So, with those who were included, who was passed over? Most interesting is the exclusion of Bordeaux’s Michael Ciani. One would expect that Blanc might favor the center-back. Maybe this shows that he isn’t just going to play favorites to Bordeaux players? Still, one must wonder if Ciani’s dismal performance against Spain made it that he will never see the French jersey again.

Julien Escude was also excluded from the squad. Again, it looks like we will see the last of him in a French jersey, especially with the inclusion of fresh faces to the defensive back line.

In the midfield, we see huge changes to the French squad. We have just become accustomed in the last two years with seeing either Henry, Toulalan, Gourcuff, Ribery or Malouda in the lineup. Well, at least seeing one of these players. Instead, we will see none. And, again, nobody should expect the last four to be excluded from the regular French National Team.

Like goalkeeper, these are some positions that might not change a lot for France in the next few years. But what might change is the bench players that France will suit up.

During the last World Cup, we started seeing some changes already taking place in the midfield. Matthieu Valbuena was called up for the World Cup.  Abou Diaby is also starting to show a little more promise in the midfield with his defensive talents. Therefore, there will be some competition for the bench spots on the team.

Out of the seven midfielders that were called up to the team, only three have caps with the French National Team. Therefore, Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi, Yann M’Vila and Charles N’Zogbia will get call ups for the National Team. Still, while there might be room on the bench for these players, they will have to work their butts off for it. Don’t be surprised if you only see two out of this list ever play for France again. Some are purely being used as “fillers”.

Out of the three midfielders that have been chosen, Lassana Diarra easily is the best player. While Lassana might be happy that he wasn’t involved with the crap in South Africa, his spot as a starter on the French National Team shouldn’t be threatened.

As far as the other midfielders, one might say that Samir Nasri has been in the same boat as Philippe Mexès, a player that French supporters have been asking to be a regular on the team for a long time now. Nasri has the skill, that is easy to see. But will he be able to battle Yohann Gourcuff for a starting position? Well, it all depends on Blanc. If Blanc continues to play the tactical style of play that he did at Bordeaux, that favors Gourcuff, with his free kick ability. But if Blanc wants to give his attacking midfielders a little more freedom, then Nasri would be the obvious choice. Again, it all comes down to what Blanc does.

But even with the battles going on in the midfield, people need to keep their eyes out for Moussa Sissoko. Me might become a key player in the French 2014 World Cup team. He can play back, he can play forward. Basically, he can play wherever you want him to play. Being this versatile will give him and extra advantage that many players don’t have. Still, the question is if he will be overshadowed by other talent, which is highly possible.

Finally, we come down to the strikers.

First, Henry is gone, Anelka is gone, Govou is gone. So who will take their spots on the roster?

It is hard to find a “bad” or “questionable” group of strikers in France. Even if you don’t take the top strikers, you still have a pretty damn good striking force.

First, along with Nasri and Mexès, Jeremy Menez finally gets a call up to the French National team. The Roma winger has been another fan favorite that people have wanted to see on the team, but never made it under Domenech. Now, he should get his chance to shine under Blanc.

Second, Karim Benzema was added to this team. If any player benefited from the French World Cup “strike”, it was Benzema. First of all, Benzema was excluded from the team so that something (like what happened at the World Cup) wouldn’t happen. Everyone looked at him as a hot head. But now, we see, half of the team was filled with hotheads. Second, you cannot keep someone off the team with that amount of talent. Yes, he might not be getting the attention that he though he would at Madrid. But still, he can play.

In addition to these two players, it looks like Blanc is going with some top-notch Ligue 1 players. Loic Remy, Guillaume Hoarau, Jimmy Briand and Hatem Ben Arfa all make the team as well. Any one of these players have a chance of making the regular squad, with Hoarau being the possible odd-man-out. Still, these players have the quality to easily be starters on the FNT.

So, who was excluded? The one that comes to my mind if Bafetimbi Gomis. One would figure that Gomis would fit a Blanc technical style perfect. Most of his goals for both St. Etienne and Lyon have come from the fact that he seems to be in the right place at the right time. Yet, it seems like Blanc doesn’t want him on the team. Does this have to do with the fact that his playing time at Lyon will be reduced even more this season? Maybe.

The second exclusion, which isn’t a surprise, is Kevin Gameiro. I have been talking about this guy all year long, so one would figure that he would make the team, right? So why isn’t he here? Well, he suffered an injury, that is why. Otherwise, he would easily be a starter for this team against Norway. I just want people to know he wasn’t snuffed out, he is just injured.

So, as of right now, there are basically three positions at forward that need to be filled. Kevin Gameiro and Karim Benzema should easily be two of the choices. More than likely, Remy, Menez and Briand will fight for that last spot. Out of these three, it is hard to tell who is the favorite. Loic Remy is on lowly Nice, which might hurt his chances of being a regular on the team. As far as Briand and Menez, they are both on high quality teams that can make a decent run in the Champions League. Again, it all depends on Blanc’s style, even if both players are dribble-happy. But talent wise, you have to give Menez the nod.

So, with all that said, that is the team for the friendly against Norway. I know I am missing a lot of players that didn’t make the team, and if I went through them all, this article would even be LONGER! But it seems like Blanc is looking more toward the young and the future, instead of the old and past.

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12 Responses

  1. Great read, I am very happy about this roster. Sure, it’s missing some names I’d like to see on there. I’d like to see some of those Bleuets. But unlike with Domenech, I’m confident that Blanc has an idea. He knows what he is doing and why he called up these particular players.

    I don’t care very much about Ciani’s exclusion. That Spain performance was his chance and he knew it, and blew it.

    My favorite players are Nasri and Malouda and I am very excited to see Nasri finally get a chance. Actually, he will probably get 3 solid chances considering Gourcuff’s extended suspension.

    I hope that the Norway Coach agrees with Blanc to allow plenty of substitutions. I would even like to see something similar to what clubs do, with almost a entirely different XI each half.

    These players should take advantage of this opportunity, it may be their only game for the FNT.

  2. I’m a bit disappointed that flamini didn’t make the cut. if he has a good year with milan, perhaps he’s not out of the running in the future.

  3. and i’m surprised that benzema was included…

  4. You better have saved some comments for the podcast!

  5. I realize this is not on topic, but if I read the Fox schedules right, It looks like they are going to show some Ligue1. Most games are on Fox Soccer Plus. Now I just need to get Comcast to pick it up.

  6. When Blanc read out the names at the press conference, I was happy to hear that he not only looked to Ligue 1 but also brought back Jeremy Menez.

    Congrats to Hatem Ben Arfa. He played well and didn’t do anything stupid the pre-season game that Laurent Blanc attended and based on a second-half sub performance deserved to be called-up. Sure, I didn’t like the crap he pulled at Marseille under Gerets and Deschamps. Still, I hope he gets some playing time for the NT. Maybe he can learn some maturity from some of the other young Bleus who didn’t cause so many on-and-off-field problems for their clubs.

    Also, I hope the Frey apologists finally quiet down because they go on and on about how Frey is better than Lloris, Mandanda, Ruffier, Douchez… Frey might have still had it a two or three years ago, but anybody who’s watched his more recent seasons have noticed that he’s lost a step.

    • Oh, I totally agree with you about Frey. Another player I should have mentioned, along with Flamini. Still, to me, Lloris is the best keeper in the world right now, not just Ligue 1. But I think people always go on about Frey because that is the ONLY French keeper they know. I am sure if you ask the same people, they think that Coupet should still be on the team as well, because they are ignorant about French football.

  7. Great post. Great analysis.
    About Ciani, Blanc said that the whole defense has to be rebuilt. Ciani is a good centerback but he’s much of a right centerback, like Mexès. Blanc is looking for players who can play on the left, and that’s why he chose Sakho against Ciani. He has also chosen Rami who’s better on the right but can play as left centerback. He’s already thinking of them as possible first-choice players after the return of the old 23.

  8. Great article although i really really really really really (really) don’t see how anybody considers Mexes as an automatic start on the french national team. He’s not in the same boat as anybody here. He had more than his fair set of chances and did terribly.

  9. Great post. With regards to Nasri, I think that he will slot on the right side of the midfield with the return of Gourcuff. Much like he does at Arsenal. I think that will give Les Bleus some strong tactical flexibility. The biggest problem, on the field, during the World Cup was the complete black hole France had on the right side. Nasri is also very strong on free kicks so another option for France.

    I might argue that Mandanda is not the unquestionable #2 keeper for France. Ruffier has a real chance to score some points, he was absolutely huge for Monaco second half of last season in Ligue 1.

    I think we will not see the likes of Frey, Escude, Trezeguet, Landreau….not that some do not deserve another look but the depth Les Bleus have is such that there is no reason to lean on these veterans. Especially at the keeper post!

    More of my thoughts – http://bit.ly/9OgHb9

  10. The France-Norway friendly will be available for viewing on ESPN 3.

  11. […]  ”suspended” the 23 men named for the FIFA 2010 World Cup. I know tonight is only a friendly against Norway, but what it does is gives “the next generation” of players a chance […]

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