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against Croatia, diminished Blues want to revive

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After a surprise defeat on Friday against Denmark (1-2), the France team traveled to Croatia on Monday for its second group match in the League of Nations. The Blues want to return to success, despite a workforce diminished by injuries and end-of-season fatigue.

France will have to be reassured, Monday June 6, so as not to leave room for doubt in the League of Nations. After winning the 2021 edition of this new competition between national teams, the Blues stumbled from the start against Denmark on Friday in Saint-Denis. But the magnificent goal of Karim Benzema was not enough to compensate for the failing defensive placements which allowed Cornelius to score twice (1-2).

France will not have to reproduce the same performance on Monday evening in Split, under penalty of getting into difficulty in the standings – then they will only have four games left to play to hope to reach the semi-finals of the competition in a year. It is therefore the Blues in search of answers who present themselves against Croatia, also looking for a first success after their defeat on Friday against Austria (0-3) in their first match.

“There is no need to wait (this match) to know that it is a setback. Is it an accident? We have to reverse the trend,” said assured Didier Deschamps at a press conference, back in charge after four days of absence due to family bereavement. The coach knows that a new setback would precisely complicate the chances of qualification of the Blues before a trip to Austria on Friday.

“We will have to redeem ourselves,” added defender Presnel Kimpembe, who will wear the captain’s armband in place of Hugo Lloris – replaced by Mike Maignan on behalf of the rotation – and Raphaël Varane – usual vice-captain, package on injury on Friday and replaced by novice Ibrahima Konaté.

Several blunt players

The four matches of the Blues this month of June serve as preparation for the next World Cup in Qatar (November 21-December 18). After a grueling season for most players, several of them looked dull against Denmark.

The Croatian heat should not help: temperatures above 30°C are announced in the Balkans and the match at the Poljud stadium should be sold out. In the lair of Hajduk Split, the century-old club unleashing passions – many walls in the city tagged in the colors of the local team bear witness to this – the Blues will have to sweep away their doubts.

The France team will be well inspired to rediscover its “spirit” of Moscow, when it beat Croatia in the World Cup final four years ago (4-2). The Blues then displayed a collective strength and a certain defensive solidity, which Didier Deschamps would not deny on Monday evening.

The two alignment errors on Friday and the goal of a Benzema surfing on his very high level season cannot hide the shortcomings noted recently among the Blues. No doubt the end of the season weighs on the legs, as evidenced by the collective training on Sunday. Five players attended: Kylian Mbappé, Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, Jules Koundé and N’Golo Kanté.

Kylian Mbappé “has a small problem due to a contusion (which occurred on Wednesday in training, editor’s note) which is not irreparable”, indicated Didier Deschamps. Another question mark: Karim Benzema, who only trotted a quarter of an hour on Sunday, will he be able to chain a third tenure in a row, ten days after his Champions League final won with Real Madrid ?

For their part, Kingsley Coman, Jules Koundé and N’Golo Kanté pedaled on a stationary bike. But only the Chelsea midfielder is not finally on the list sent by France to UEFA for Monday evening’s match. The Blues will thus only have three pure midfielders – Adrien Rabiot, Mattéo Guendouzi and Aurélien Tchouaméni.

A chance to seize for several “young” Blues

“There is wear and tear, fatigue”, noted Didier Deschamps, evoking once again the “busy seasons” and the unprecedented sequence of “four games in eleven days”.

In attack, the uncertainties around the presence of the Mbappé-Benzema duo allow at least a place for a second knife, to whom the coach has promised playing time. The best placed in the hierarchy seems to be Christopher Nkunku, author of a good start in Saint-Denis, but Wissam Ben Yedder and Moussa Diaby are in ambush.

Adjustments are also imposed in defense with, in addition to Kimpembe, an opportunity for William Saliba and Benjamin Pavard, still little used by the Blues as a central back, but summoned to occupy this position. On the sides, Jonathan Clauss and Lucas Digne offer two likely alternatives to Kingsley Coman and Theo Hernandez, disappointing against the Danes.

Opposite, Luka Modric’s team, which will celebrate its 150e selection, is in an even more alarming situation after its shipwreck against Austria. Proof that six months from Qatar, having contested the final of the last World Cup offers no guarantee.

With AFP


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