France v Romania, 2010 World Cup qualifier, September 5, 2009
How Raymond Domenech is still the French manager is unbelievable.
France’s troubled World Cup qualifying campaign enters its decisive phase this weekend, with crucial make-or-break matches against Romania and Serbia determining whether the French will be attending South Africa 2010 next summer.
Last month’s patchy and unimpressive 1-nil win at the lowly Faroe Islands did little to reassure fans that Le Bleus are headed in the right direction having had a disastrous start to qualifying that saw the former European and World Cup winners pick up only four points from the first three games.
The biggest problem which Domenech has failed to address throughout qualifying is to identify the best team available to the French. At the back, while Patrice Evra (12/1 to score)and Bacary Sagna have made the full-back positions their own, William Gallas has chopped and changed his centre-half partner without success. Ancient Eric Abidal looks set to get the nod for the match with Romania, however any one of Squillaci, Mexes or Escude could be drafted in at the last minute.
One old-timer to have been given the axe in midfield is Patrick Vieira. Lassana Diarra, having started the season in sparkling form for Real Madrid, looks to have finally cemented his position as the first-choice holding midfielder in the squad.
Moving further up the pitch though, and the French run into the same problems of not knowing their best team. Going forward, the French should be one of the best teams in world football. Every squad in the world would love to have the likes of Franck Ribery (6/1 to score first), Thierry Henry (EVS to score), Karim Benzema (6/5 to score), Yoann Gourcuff and Nicolas Anelka (to name but a few offensive options) in their ranks. However it appears a case of too many cooks for Domenech as the coach has failed to build a team with a solid-foundation in the final third.
While times are tough for France, Romania are also in their worst shape for some time. Having lost at home to Lithuania and Serbia and away at Austria in qualifying, the Romanians are currently second-bottom of Group 7 with only a faint chance of reaching the playoffs.
Up against it, Romania coach Razvan Lucescu has been forced to call Adrian Mutu (10/3 to score) to lead the line in the forthcoming matches despite the fact that the Fiorentina hitman has been sidelined recently with muscle problems. At the back though the Eastern Europeans will be short as regular goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont is missing following knee surgery this spring.
Despite missing their regular shot-stopper, the Romanians will be able to field a hugely talented and experienced backline with Dorin Goian (Palermo), Cristi Chivu (Inter), and Razvan Rat (Shakhtar Donetsk) all in the starting line-up. (Romania are 9/2 to keep a clean sheet.)
While France will be confident of getting the result they need at the Stade de France on Saturday, we expect a tense and tight affair with very few goals.
101predicts: France 1 – Romania 0 (9/2)
Full match odds here.