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4 Reasons Why Korea Could Beat France
France's defeat by Korea could mean 'adieu' to Les Bleus
Pierre Joo (pierre_joo)     Print Article 
Published 2006-06-17 21:47 (KST)   
With a day left before the decisive France vs. Korea match in the 2006 World Cup, the traditional cartoon of the June 15 issue of the biggest French Sports daily l'Equipe, has accurately captured the general French mood. Titled "The Koreans are obliging," the drawing shows an old wrinkled lady wearing a French football jersey, standing on a sidewalk and waiting for help to cross the street. Beside her is a smiling kid wearing a Korean jersey reaching his hand towards the old lady and saying, "I'll help you go back to your home."

After a tasteless and disappointing draw against Switzerland in their first match of the 2006 German Football World Cup, France badly needs a win in its next match against Korea this Sunday, in order not to jeopardize its qualification for the next round of the tournament.

Worried Sports Daily l'Equipe asks "What do we do now?"
©2006 Pierre Joo
Theoretically, France, the 1998 World Champion, 2000 European Champion, and eighth football powerhouse according to FIFA ranking, should have no trouble beating a team who has just won its first away match in a World Cup final round a few days ago, after six consecutive participations.

But in fact, the outcome of the game is not that simple given what both teams have demonstrated so far. Aside from the traditional "the French are old and the Koreans are fast" analysis, here are four French weaknesses that could enable Korea to defeat another European football giant, after its 2002 breathtaking performance against Portugal, Spain and Italy.

1. France has no clear strategy

With the 1998 French World cup approaching, the media and the public almost unanimously criticized then French coach Aime Jacquet for implementing a defensive strategy with four defenders and two defensive midfielders. Even halfway through the tournament, this strategy was chastised for not allowing enough scoring opportunities.

Yet, the coach knew where he was going, enjoyed full support from his staff and team and in the end lifted the much coveted trophy, celebrated by the entire people of France. It turned out that Les Bleu's victory was mainly due to their iron defense allowing only two goals, among them one was a penalty kick during the last match of the first round, when France had already secured its qualification.

Today, the French team has no clear strategy. Of course, its current coach, Raymond Domenech has some ideas on how his team should play, but he is constantly challenged by either the press, or a member of his team. Most recently, Juventus striker David Trezeguet questioned the efficiency of the team with the one-striker configuration the coach chose against Switzerland. As a result, les Bleus have hardly played two games in a row with the same starting players and the same team configuration.

2. France lacks a team leader

How about the veteran playmaker and half-god in its home country Zinedine Zidane? Well, he is with no doubt a dreamlike maestro with the ball, capable of delivering the decisive assist or scoring the deadly goal with magic and grace. He is also believed to be the sweetest of characters that has managed to remain simple and humble in spite of the worldwide adulation he is the subject of.

Yet, he is not a leader and lacks the natural authority necessary to bring the team together, motivating some players, reprimanding others if necessary, and relaying the coach's instructions to the team. In fact, Zidane never got along very well with the present coach.

Platini, or the 1998 French team captain Deschamps, were team leaders, Zidane simply does not have such a personality.

3. France has a generational problem

More than 10 years separate the Juventus defender Lilian Thuram or Zinedine Zidane from France's new attraction Frank Ribery. Players aged somewhere in between should be leading the team and playing a pivotal role between the veterans and the rookies. Unfortunately they are not for two reasons.

The first one is the way France qualified for the World Cup, against countries like Switzerland, Ireland, Israel or Cyprus. A slam dunk for a team from which many of the 1998 winners including Zidane and Thuram had retired, but where Henry, Trezeguet, or Viera had taken over. In reality, the qualification looked very uncertain until a dramatic come back of Zidane, Thuram and the Chelsea midfielder Makelele who managed to secure a very tight qualification. The generation of Henry had missed a chance to take the lead of the French team and today, it is still under the clout of the generation of Zidane.

Moreover, for various reasons mainly related to tough relationship with the current coach, many players who could have filled the gap between Zidane and Ribery like the midfielder Robert Pires of Arsenal, the Fenerbahce striker Nicolas, or the Barcelona winger Ludovic Giuly, did not make it to Germany.

4. France has deadly strikers, but can't score goals

For the 2005-2006 season, Thierry Henry was the top scorer of the English Premiership, while David Trezeguet was the second top scorer of the Italian Serie A. Yet France has failed to score a single goal in a World Cup final round since its 1998 final against Brazil.

Former French defender Bixente Lizarazu who has just retired from professional football after winning one last Bundesliga championship title with Bayern Munich, has an explanation for France's inability to score goals despite the presence of world-class strikers among its team.

In his blog posting of June 15, he writes that French strikers are deadly efficient within a short range of the opponent's goal, but few of them "are able to score a goal from a 25 to 30-meter shooting distance." Hence, all the opponents need to do is to stay packed around their goal, without worrying about distant shootings.

In the end, a Korean victory over their French opponents may simply confirm that what actually matters in football is not so much the intrinsic value of each of the team members, but how well all of them can play together as a team, understanding, helping and complementing one another.

In that respect, Korea has an edge over France, and their supporters, well aware of it, are enthusiastically chanting "Again 2002!" while their French counterparts, haunted by the memory of their team's pathetic performance in the Korea Japan World Cup wonder: "Again 2002?"
Which do you think was the biggest World Cup upset?  (2006-06-12 ~ 2006-06-27)
Senegal 1 France 0 - Seoul, May 31 2002
Cameroon 1 Argentina 0 - Milan, June 8 1990
South Korea 2 Italy 1 - Seoul, June 18 2002
Algeria 2 West Germany 1 - Gijon, June 16 1982
U.S. 1 England 0 - Belo Horizonte, June 29 1950
North Korea 1 Italy 0 - Middlesbrough, July 19 1966
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Pierre Joo

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