Euro 2012 Sweden vs. France: 6 Things We Learned About Les Bleus
Sweden's 2-0 win over France gave us a few things to think about as far as the French team are concerned.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's great strike followed by Sebastian Larsson's extra-time finish helped Sweden end the tournament on a high, but also put a huge cloud over France in the process.
France heads into the quarterfinals knowing they have a very tough opponent to play in the form of Spain.
Here are six things we learned about France after this game.
Laurent Blanc's Decisions Backfired
Laurent Blanc's decision to start both Yann M'Vila and Alou Diarra in midfield, as well as Hatem Ben Arfa up front, did not work out. He didn't get it right with the introduction of Florent Malouda either.
M'Vila and Diarra are more defensive-minded midfielders and that left Samir Nasri as the only creative player centrally. Ben Arfa was ineffective.
Being cautious with Yohan Cabaye's health was smart, but Blanc could have gone with Marvin Martin in the midfield to help Nasri. The selection of Ben Arfa was surprising, to say the least, and there is no telling what his reasoning was with that decision.
France may have been more effective had those other players been chosen to start. Blanc's side would not face the very tough challenge of Spain if his decision making had been a bit better.
They Are Better off Without Philippe Mexes
Philippe Mexes picked up his second yellow card in the game against Sweden and that means he will miss the game against Spain.
That could be a good thing for the French. Mexes has been a weak link in the French defense and with Laurent Koscielny on the bench and Alou Diarra able to deputize in the defense, they have better options.
Koscielny had a great season with Arsenal and showed marked improvement positionally and in the tackle to be the team's best defender for the season. His decent turn of pace could be helpful.
Diarra has shown his positional awareness in France's Euro 2012 games so far and could give the defense the solidity it needs.
Hugo Lloris Will Have to Come Up Big Against Spain
Hugo Lloris made some great saves against Sweden and things could have been much worse for his side if he wasn't in goal. Even without Philippe Mexes in defense, Lloris will probably have to perform similar feats against Spain.
The Spanish attack is the strongest one his defensive partners will face in the tournament and while they will put forth their best efforts, it will be Lloris, their captain, who has to save the team from elimination in the end.
Jeremy Menez Should Start Against Spain
Laurent Blanc has started three players, Florent Malouda, Jeremy Menez and Hatem Ben Arfa, in the attack to play with Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery. Menez has been the best of all three.
He scored the first goal against Ukraine in their second group game and was close to scoring again when he was introduced today.
Florent Malouda has made little impact when on the pitch and he was wasteful in possession against Sweden. Hatem Ben Arfa tried his best to make an impression but a few long-range efforts produced nothing of note.
Menez has been the brightest of the bunch and is more likely to create or finish one of the few chances the French will create against Spain
France Need to Be Better on the Counter
France labored through the majority of the game and even after things began to open up thanks to Sweden's attacking mindset, the French failed to find a way through.
They were generally slow on the counter and made Sweden's defense look much better than the one that had already conceded five goals in two games.
France won't have the possession statistics it did in any of its three group games and they will have to make their chances count when they get them. Italy provided a good blueprint to worry the Spanish defense and Croatia almost had their time as well.
The French definitely have the quality to get the chances they need but it will require them being much more effective team on the counter.
Their Run Ends in the Quarterfinal
France has a lot of work to do at the back and in attack to get the better of Spain. In the end, their opponents will have too much quality and experience and will knock them out.
The defense may be able to hold on for a little while but Spain will eventually find a way through. France, as with any opponent of Spain, will have their chances on the counter but they have not been effective in that area thus far. If that changes maybe the victory will be theirs.
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