19 November ~ “The World Cup fiasco seems a long way away now,” said Le Parisien on Thursday. Rather than crowing about Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory over les rosbifs, most of the post-match analysis focused on the remarkable progress of Les Bleus since Laurent Blanc took over just four months ago. “France's fourth consecutive victory contained enough imperfections to prevent any sense of euphoria, but enough promise to suggest the new dawn will last,” wrote Vincent Duluc in L'Equipe. His assessment was sound, although the sports daily's decision to award Samir Nasri only 5/10 for what was generally seen as one of the finest individual performances of the evening will have raised a few eyebrows.
L'Equipe’s sister publication, twice-weekly magazine France Football, was more impressed with the Arsenal player. “He shone in the playmaker role,” they wrote, before adding that the argument about whether Nasri and Yoann Gourcuff could play together was now effectively over. “The pair excelled in the art of keeping the ball,” they said. Older France fans will remember similar debates over Platini-Giresse and Zidane-Djorkaeff in the 1980s and 1990s. We know how those ended.
England’s performance was panned. Midi Libre, a daily paper based in Montpellier, said France obliged Fabio Capello’s side to “revive kick-and-rush tactics and play long balls towards giant striker Carroll”. L'Equipe labelled Phil Jagielka “catastrophic”. They said of Kieran Gibbs: “If he plays like this for Arsenal, Gael Clichy has nothing to worry about.” Bixente Lizarazu, now one of France’s most outspoken pundits, put the boot in on Friday morning. “It was like watching a training session put on purely for France’s benefit. You know, one of those keep-ball exercises where the opposition are asked not to tackle or commit fouls. The English were perfect sparring partners. They were always three yards away from the player on the ball. I’m sorry, but they simply weren’t up to international standard.”
If you wondered where Blanc’s widely ridiculed predecessor was on the day of the game, L’Equipe provided the answer. They tracked down Raymond Domenech to a small town south-west of Paris, where he spent Wednesday afternoon coaching a local Under-11 side. “It’s not easy to go back to working with kids when you’ve been at the top,” said Jacques Migaud, president of the football division of Athletic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt. “He’s here every Wednesday. He does it for free.” You might say he’s found his level. James Eastham