Because less players equal more space to pass and move

France Surrender

Mexico have just beaten France 2-0 in Group A of South Africa 2010 and France should be thankful their goal difference wasn’t dented further as they prepare to fight for their World Cup lives against the hosts next tuesday. The country who once dominated Europe and the world, the country everyone thought would win their group despite having Domenech at the helm and not having Zidane giving directions, the country that reached the final in 2006, are a country lacking backbone, bottle and balls.

Not one French player tonight looked like they wanted to be there, be they on or off the pitch. The players on the field ran around like headless poulets whilst the substitutes strayed from their coop, eager to look like they wanted to come on whilst getting as far away from that potential scenario as possible. There was no cohesion, no spirit, no determination, and whoever told Nicolas Anelka he was capable of taking a free-kick should be sent on the first raft back to France using their white flag as a sail.

Mexico passed much better, were ten times more organised and creative and were up for the fight. Well, a fight should the French bother making it one. Dos Santos, who has been excellent recently, was lively, wanted the ball, tracked back and won it and was a constant thorn in Gallas and Abidal’s backs. Contrast this with, say, Ribery, who looked uneasy in the middle and was constantly stifled by Marquez and Torrado. The French players tried to do everything on their own be it through selfishness or not having a game plan involving the team (which leads me to wonder where their well-worked free-kick in the first half came from).

Abidal was terrible out of position and is surely only played there for his height to compliment Gallas’ lack thereof, and a worrying lack of a better option. At fault for both goals, the first for not pushing up quick enough and playing Hernandez, who incidentally looks quite a player, onside, and the second for a clumsy challenge on Barrera leading to the penalty.

I have two more points to make. Penultimately, either side’s captains. Mexico’s Marquez, whilst not having his greatest game in terms of passing – assist for Hernandez exempted – was excellent sitting in front of the defence/anchoring the midfield, leading by example with his challenges and setting the tempo, keeping his shape and organising his troops. Evra on the other hand appears to have no influence over the team and his performance will be remembered for standing still whilst Barrera passed him on the way to win the penalty.

My final point is the substitutions. Aguirre brought on Barrera, Hernandez and Blanco. Hernandez scored the first and Barrera won the penalty that Blanco scored. Domenech brought on Gignac and Valbuena who had a personal competition to see who could sky their shots the highest and contributed precisely nothing else of value. All while Henry, Cisse and Gourcuff looked on.