2010 FIFA World Cup: France Hopeless without Lassana Diarra

Nathan LoweAnalyst IMay 24, 2010

PARIS - MARCH 03:  Lassana Diarra (c) of France during the during the International friendly match betweem France and Spain at the Stade de France on March 3, 2010 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Someone who walks with an uneven spine is sure to have an awkward gait.

Without recently ruled-out central midfielder Lassana Diarra, France will similarly be unable to engage their core correctly. It is the final damning factor proving their march through the 2010 World Cup will likely be an uncomfortable one.

Any side’s most important player

At times, Diarra is the best player on his club team. This is no small feat considering he plays at Real Madrid with both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain —the second and third best attackers in the world during the 2009/2010 season.

Lass’ approach to midfield generalship relies on balance. Not necessarily his own physical balance but the averaging of both his offensive and defensive acumen, and his equal timing and measurement of each one's application.

“Defensive midfielder” describes his position but does not define his effect on matches.

He goes forward and backwards, rarely over-committing in either direction.  His blunt and oblong forehead leads his taut, but small frame, eagerly into tackles. But it’s his important distribution, his ability to use either foot to dribble or pass, and penchant for a nice-looking through-ball that really makes his mold unique.

The guy makes Michael Carrick look like Nancy Reagan.

There are very few players even like him among Europe’s elite: Roma’s Daniele De Rossi, Man United’s Darren Fletcher, Barcelona's Keita, or even Liverpool’s Stephen Gerrard.

Like Diarra, their presence almost solely enables their respective clubs' attack to flourish.

Yet in Europe, year after year star forwards garner more glory and transfer fees, while the true foundation of each side remains largely unheralded.

His private sickness

And so the Real Madrid midfielder was the perfect foil for France playmaker Yoann Gourcuff in South Africa, but now he’s out of the tournament with an interesting stomach ailment.

Apparently, the sickness is severe enough to know that a stomach ache won’t heal in 17 days. The French federation was alarmingly coy in their reaction Sunday.

“Further to his intestinal pain contracted on the glacier in Tignes, check-ups have detected evidence of an unpredictable illness which justifies rest for an indeterminate period. Consequently Lassana Diarra will miss the World Cup 2010 in South Africa,” a statement from the FFF read.

After Diarra, of the just six midfielders left, only Alou Diaby has the combination of grit and skill to weigh down his team’s core. However, his lower center of gravity and slightly over-buccaneering approach to attacking make the replacement hardly like-for-like.

Although Diaby's style isn't wholly dissimilar to Diarra's, and he gamely fulfills his crucial role for Arsenal, the general disparity in class between the two Frenchmen is a marked one.

It's very improbable that Diaby will slot in and do better than Diarra would have on the basis that the latter is better at everything.


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