France

< UEFA Group 5

Preview

Under legendary manager Michel Hidalgo, France had mesmerised an entire footballing world through their displays in the 1982 World Cup and the 1984 European Championships. They had indeed won the latter, on home soil, beating Spain soundly in the final. After Hidalgo had retired following that triumph, the French FA had put U21 manager Henri Michel in charge. Succeeding Hidalgo was a daunting task, but Michel had led the golden generation of French footballers to bronze medals in the 1986 World Cup. For a second successive global tournament had they bowed out to West Germany in the semi-finals, but with world star Michel Platini among their ranks, they had again won a lot of neutrals over.

France’ decline following the 1986 tournament had happened rapidly. They had lost the backbone of the side which had done so well earlier in the decade, as neither of defender Maxime Bossis nor ace midfielders Alain Giresse and said Platini would feature much since. Only the latter had played some part in the qualification for the 1988 European Championships, where France had failed miserably, finishing well beaten by both the Soviet Union and East Germany. A single win from eight matches, with an abysmal four goals scored, had been their undoing. Manager Michel had some rebuilding to do, but time was not on his side. France came into the 1990 qualification as outsiders, despite the fact that they were first seeds.

Still available to the manager were fine players such as goalkeeper Joël Bats and full-back Manuel Amoros. 24 year old Marseille striker Jean-Pierre Papin, who had scored twice during the 1986 World Cup, was also there. However, they seemed to be desperately short of midfield creativity. Midfield had been France’ greatest level of exuberance earlier. Now, they could need to look to players such as Toulouse’s Gérald Passi (24) and Marseille’s Franck Sauzée (22), both fine prospects, but with considerably less creative guile than some of their predecessors. And who would accompany Papin up front? Stéphane Paille (23) had notched in the 1-1 friendly at home to Czechoslovakia in August, just ahead of the qualification start. Would the Sochaux striker be playing his part now that Yannick Stopyra had retired at international level after a 0-0 friendly in Belfast in spring?

The French were looking to participate in their fourth successive World Cup, but no doubt did manager Michel have plenty of work ahead of him if he were to build a team strong enough to compete. Yugoslavia and Scotland appeared to be the biggest threat to French World Cup participation.

Results 

Friendly: France 1-1 Czechoslovakia
24.08.1988
Goal: Paille
Line-up: Bats – Sonor, Kastendeuch, Casoni, Amoros (c) – Despeyroux, Sauzée, Passi (Vercruysse 65), Pardo – Papin, Paille
According to reports, this had been a miserable game from a French point of view. They had included three players described as ‘the hopes of French football’ in midfielders Despeyroux and Sauzée (debutant), as well as forward Paille (who’d strike the opening goal), and seen the debut of Pardo, but the fall from grace had apparently hit French football media hard: This team had so much to live up to. They’d failed against a Czechoslovakian team which were without, for the first time since they’d defected, Kubík and Knoflíček. “We’ll need a miracle against Norway”, sounded the cry.

Qualifier 1: France 1-0 Norway
28.09.1988, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Goal: Papin (pen.)
Line-up (4-3-3): Bats – Sonor, Boli (Kastendeuch 64), Casoni, Amoros (c) – Dib, Passi (Paille 77), Sauzée – Bravo, Papin, Xuereb
The French get their win courtesy of a late Papin penalty. They had faced strong resistance from a defensive opponent, which had their minds set on defending their way to a scoreless draw. France had improved after the break, when they created a few openings, and in particular wide forward Xuereb had impressed. They’d gone 4-2-4 late on with the introduction of Paille, something which ultimately paid off: He won a header in the Norwegian area to set Bravo up for a challenge against Giske to win the penalty. Deserved win, although the performance was hardly vintage.

Qualifier 2: Cyprus 1-1 France
22.10.1988, Makáreio Stádio (Nicosia)
Goal: Xuereb
Line-up (4-4-2): Bats – Sonor, Boli, Casoni, Amoros (c) – Bravo, Sauzée, Dib, Passi (Vercruysse 71) – Papin, Xuereb (Paille 80)
Having defeated Norway, France were looking to get off to a sound, albeit expected, start to their World Cup qualification. Michel had picked the same eleven as last time out, although he’d opted for a somewhat more restricted tactical approach. Bravo had moved back into a right-sided midfield position, rendering this a 4-4-2 as opposed to the 4-3-3 last time around. Disappointing throughout, France were left stunned as they conceded a late penalty to their plucky hosts, who until then had not been able to test Bats. Xuereb’s headed opener just before the break would still only mean a single point, and the French players trotted off the pitch in shame upon the full-time whistle.

Res. Friendly: France B 1-0 Yugoslavia B
16. 11.1988, Stade Abbe-Deschamps (Auxerre)
Goals: Micciche
Line-up (4-4-2): Rousset – Ayache (Silvestre h-t), Sonor, Casoni, Di Meco – Passi (Guérin 74), Laurey, Blanc, Vercruysse (Micciche h-t) – Xuereb, Touré.
The French B team is reintroduced under Roger Lemerre after more than six years since their last friendly. Some experienced names here, but also newcomers in Rousset, Di Meco, Laurey and Blanc in the XI.

Qualifier 3: Yugoslavia 3-2 France
19.11.1988, Stadion JNA (Belgrade)
Goals: Perez, Sauzée
Line-up (4-3-3): Bats – Boli, Kastendeuch, Roche, Amoros (c) – Sauzée, Tigana, Dib – Ferreri (Papin 78), Paille, Perez (Bravo 69)
Michel Platini is new head coach for France after Henri Michel, who is sacked in the wake of the draw against Cyprus. Platini lures back Tigana from international retirement, and opts for a 4-3-3 spearheaded by Paille. It is an improved display by the French, who twice leads before conceding two late goals to lose the game. It feels like more points wasted in their campaign for Italia’90, but positives taken from the performance, not least attacking-wise.

Friendly: Republic of Ireland 0-0 France
07.02.1989
Line-up (5-3-2): Bats – Kastendeuch, Sonor, Battiston, Silvestre (Roche 74), Amoros (c) – Blanc (Vercruysse 68), Sauzée, Durand – Paille (Touré h-t), Papin

Unoff. friendly: Arsenal 2-0 France
14.02.1989, Highbury (London)
Line-up: Bats – Prunier, Bonalair, Silvestre, Kastendeuch, Sauzée, Durand (Vercruysse), Blanc, Paille (Dib), Papin, Perez (Bravo).
Unused subs: Martini, Le Roux.
France continue their preparations against Scotland in March with an unofficial friendly against Arsenal. The eventual English league champions prove too strong for Platini’s side, who succumb to two goals in the 2nd half (Hayes and Smith). The direct and aggressive style of George Graham’s side will have been a good foretaste of what les Bleus could expect one month later in Glasgow.

Qualifier 4: Scotland 2-0 France
08.03.1989, Hampden Park (Glasgow)
Line-up (5-3-2): Bats – Sauzée, Silvestre, Battiston, Sonor, Amoros (c) – Blanc, Laurey, Durand (Paille 59) – Xuereb (Perez 73), Papin.
Mo Johnston scores twice for Scotland, and the French defence is at times ran ragged by the Scottish forwards. But France are not without their chances, and they are able to dominate play in the midfield area. The trio Blanc, Laurey and Durand is inexperienced at this level, but makes their numerous advantage count. Leighton enjoys one of his best performances in the qualification, however, and denies the French on several occasions. 

Qualifier 5: France 0-0 Yugoslavia
29.04.1989, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Line-up (4-3-3): Bats – Sonor, Boli; Battiston, Amoros (c) – Blanc, Durand (Cocard HT), Sauzée – Xuereb (Deschamps 77′), Paille, Perez.
France finally record their first point under Platini, but the performance is well below expectations. France were struggling in the 1st half as they failed to provide much support for their three forwards, with their midfield effectively canceled out by a compact Yugoslavian side. Direct passes to Paille fail, but intelligent movement from Perez and Xuereb still caused some openings. The change to 4-4-2 in the 2nd half was catastrophic, and France only managed to exert some pressure late on after reverting to 4-3-3 and introducing Deschamps.

Friendly: Sweden 2-4 France
16.08.1989
Goals: Cantona 2, Papin 2
Line-up (4-4-2): Bats – Amoros (c), Sauzée, Le Roux, Di Meco – Ferreri (Blanc 69), Pardo, Deschamps, Perez – Cantona, Papin

Qualifier 6: Norway 1-1 France
05.09.1989, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
Goal: Papin (pen.)
Line-up (4-4-2): Bats – Amoros (c), Sauzée, Le Roux (Silvestre 56), Di Meco – Ferreri (Blanc 76), Pardo, Deschamps, Perez – Cantona, Papin
Arriving on the back of that win in Sweden, France looked confident and composed during a sound first half display in which they were the better side. They’d get their breakthrough from Papin’s late penalty, and should have had a second thereafter when Ferreri had rounded the ‘keeper, only to see his shot booted away. Second half France looked to sit deep and counter, though they would fail in precision, and this ultimately cost them as they saw Bats fail to claim Berg’s corner for Bratseth to head home a late leveller. Some fine individual performances, and all in all it had been a decent French performance.

Qualifier 7: France 3-0 Scotland
11.10.1989, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Goals: Deschamps, Cantona, Durand
Line-up (4-3-3): Bats (c) – Silvestre, Sauzée, Le Roux (Casoni h-t), Di Meco – Pardo, Deschamps, Durand – Perez (Bravo 82), Cantona, Ferreri
Despite being without a couple of key players in Amoros and Papin, a highly combative French select put their Scottish visitors to the sword. Interestingly, France allow the visitors plenty of possession, but catching Scotland on the break worked well. Durand had been brought in to reinforce midfield, and this laid the foundation for a solid defensive display. Di Meco’s sending off for two bookable offences did no real damage. France still with a (small) chance of qualifying. 

Qualifier 8: France 2-0 Cyprus
18.11.1989, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Goals: Deschamps, Blanc
Line-up (4-4-2): Bats – Silvestre, Sauzée, Casoni, Amoros (c) – Ferreri, Pardo, Deschamps, Perez (Blanc 17) – Cantona, Papin
Since Scotland had secured second spot three days earlier, this game became largely unimportant. Still, France wanted to keep up their promising form in order to round off their qualification campaign with a solid win. Amoros and Papin were back in the starting eleven, and Casoni kept his place after coming on halfway through for Le Roux, who was still out injured. Bats had announced his international retirement after this game. The French overpowered Cyprus, and were in control throughout, but some efforts from distance apart, they struggled to create clear cut openings against a very defensive opponent. Deschamps struck well first time for his first France goal, and Blanc capitalized on a goalkeeping error to prod into an empty net for the second.

Conclusion

France were bronze medalists from the 1986 World Cup and top seeded in group 5, but fail to qualify for Italia’90 after a horrible start to their campaign.

TBC 

Final position: 3 (out of 5)
Total record: 8 3 3 2 10-7 9
Home record: 4 3 1 0 6-0 7
Away record: 4 0 2 2 4-7 2

Player statistics

Number of players used: 29
Number of players including unused substitutes: 35
Ever-presents (720 mins): 2 (Bats and Sauzée)
Leading goalscorer: 2 (Papin (2 pens), Deschamps)
Yellow/red cards: 7/1

– overview

PlayerAppsXISubUnSubMinsGoalsY/R
Amoros776301/0
Bats887201/0
Battiston22180
Blanc42212671
Boli4413343/0
Bravo422209
Casoni4311315
Cocard1145
Deschamps4312832
Dib33270
Durand3311611
Ferreri44334
Guérit1
Kastendeuch2112116
Laurey11190
Martini8
Paille5233234
Papin6514622 (2 pens)1/0
Passi22148
Perez6513651
Prunier1
Roche1190
Rohr2
Sauzée887201
Silvestre431304
Sonor44360
Thouvenel1
Tigana1190
Vercruysse1119
Xuereb443201
Di Meco221471/1
Le Roux22101
Pardo33270
Cantona 332701
Garde1

– game by game

PlayerNor (h)Cyp (a)Yug (a)Sco (a)Yug (h) Nor (a)Sco (h) Cyp (h)PlayedMinutes
Amoros909090909090907630
Bats90909090909090908720
Battiston90902180
Blanc909014R732+2267
Boli64909090R4334
Bravo90902182+2209
Casoni9090R45903+1315
Cocard45+145
Deschamps139090903+1283
Dib9090903270
Durand5945R57 (s.o.)3161
Ferreri787690904334
GuéritR
Kastendeuch26R90R1+1116
Laurey90R190
MartiniRRRRRRRR
Paille1310903190RRR2+3234
Papin9090129090905+1462
Passi77712148
Perez6917909082175+1365
PrunierR
Roche90190
RohrRR
Sauzée90909090909090908720
Silvestre903490903+1304
Sonor909090904360
ThouvenelR
Tigana90190
VercruysseR19+119
Xuereb908073774320
Di Meco9057 (s.o.)2147
Le Roux56452101
Pardo9090903270
Cantona9090903270
GardeR

– ratings

PosPlayerAverage ratingNumber of rated games
1Ferreri7,104
2Perez7,104
3Sauzée7,028
4Casoni7,024
5Amoros6,957
6Xuereb6,854
7Papin6,845
8Bats6,708
9Boli6,704
10Sonor6,704
Explanation to table: Number of rated games: 8. A player must have featured for four or more games in order to be considered. Number of appearances and then the highest individual rating for single game is used to decide rank in case of equal average rating.

Post-qualification

Friendly
21.01.1990 Kuwait 0-1 France
Goal:
Line-up

Friendly
24.01.1990 France 3-0 East Germany (in Kuwait City)
Goals:
Line-up

Friendly
28.02.1990 France 2-1 West Germany
Goals:
Line-up

Friendly 
28.03.1990 Hungary 1-3 France
Goals:
Line-up

Leave a Reply