FIFA World Cup 2010 qualification doesn’t resume for France until mid-August, so as the more geographically able of you will have worked out from the title (hint: Nigeria isn’t in Europe), France take part in an exhibition match tonight.
- Will the French team do their country proud tonight?
Under fire French manager Raymond Domenech is likely to be grateful for tonight’s friendly, even if the fatigued players are not. Domenech has come in for some criticism regarding his recent squad selection, and the game tonight will provide the perfect opportunity for him to maybe experiment with a new formation and try some players in new positions. France also take on Turkey on June the fifth; a squad for both games was released a few days earlier.
The match will take place in Saint-Étienne, in eastern central France. The most successful regional club, Association Sportive de Saint-Étienne Loire (or AS Saint-Étienne for short), are one of the most accomplished teams in France, having won the French first division 10 times. Their stadium, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, will host tonight’s game.
- Expect a lively atmosphere tonight.
France- Team News
One of the biggest surprises in Domenech’s 25 man squad is the selection of Chelsea winger Florent Malouda. What’s so surprising, I hear you ask? After all, Malouda is a cultured and effectual player, performing solidly- if not spectaculary- for Chelsea over the last few months. Well, after the disastrous Euro 2008 championship, Malouda and Domenech had a well publicised falling out, and many assumed that the 28 year old had played for his country for the last time- unless Domenech was sacked. Domenech was reportedly, and understandably, furious with Malouda after the player slammed him over his “negative tactics” and “poor decisions”. However it seems Domenech has been unable to ignore Florent Malouda’s good form.
- “Flo’s” great club form has earnt him a shock call-up
“I always said that if the players weren’t picked, it was because their form was not good enough or others were better than them. That was Flo’s problem,” Domenech told the French media.
“When players perform, they are called up. We’ve been watching him.Veteran midfielder Patrick Viera is another surprise inclusion. The former Arsenal ‘skipper turns 33 in 21 days time and with a host of young French midfielders performing well (19 year old Moussa Sissoko, 20 year old Étienne Capoue and 21 year old Marvin Martin to name just three)- many were surprised at his addition. Viera told the media of his “pleasure” at being selected. Viera has played no 2010 World Cup qualification games so far, and didn’t appear during Euro 2008. However, the inclusion of Viera and Malouda will add some much needed experience to the French midfield; surprisingly (well, at least in Viera’s case) it could also add more of a goal threat to the midfield. Malaouda’s 3 goals and Viera’s 6 aside, the other midfielders only have one solitary goal between them.
Loïc Remy is set for his first ever French senior team appearance, whilst the French league’s top scorer, Andre-Pierre Gignac, is also included.
- Andre-Pierre Gignac celebrating one of his 21 league goals this year
THE FULL SQUAD:Goalkeeper- Cédric CARRASSO F.C. Toulouse- 0 Games, 0 clean-sheets
Goalkeeper- Hugo LLORIS Olympique Lyonnais- 1 Game, 1 clean-sheet
Goalkeeper- Stève MANDANDA Olympique de Marseille- 6 Games, 2 clean-sheets Defender- Eric ABIDAL F.C. Barcelona- 41 Games, 0 goals
Defender-Jean-Alain BOUMSONG Olympique Lyonnais- 26 Games, 1 goal
Defender-Julien ESCUDE F.C. Seville- 7 Games, 0 goals
Defender-Patrice EVRA Manchester United- 17 Games, 0 goals
Defender-Rod FANNI Stade Rennais F.C.- 2 Games, 0 goals
Defender-Philippe MEXES A.S. Rome- 11 Games, 0 goals
Defender-Bakary SAGNA Arsenal F.C.- 9 Games, 0 goals
Defender-Sébastien SQUILLACI F.C. Séville- 15 Games, 0 goals Midfielder- Abou DIABY Arsenal F.C.- 2 Games, 0 goals
Midfielder-Alou DIARRA Girondins de Bordeaux- 18 Games, 0 goals
Midfielder-Lassana DIARRA Real Madrid- 17 Games, 0 goals
Midfielder-Yoann GOURCUFF Girondins de Bordeaux- 9 Games, 1 goal
Midfielder-Florent MALOUDA Chelsea F.C.- 44 Games, 3 goals
Midfielder-Jérémy TOULALAN Olympique Lyonnais- 24 Games, 0 goals
Midfielder-Patrick VIEIRA Inter Milan- 106 Games, 6 goals Forward- Nicolas ANELKA Chelsea F.C.- 55 Games, 12 goals
Forward-Karim BENZEMA Olympique Lyonnais- 22 Games, 5 goals
Forward-André-Pierre GIGNAC Toulouse F.C.- 1 Game, 0 goals
Forward-Sidney GOVOU Olympique Lyonnais- 37 Games, 10 goals
Forward-Thierry HENRY F.C. Barcelona- 111 Games, 48 goals
Forward-Loïc REMY OGC Nice- 0 Games, 0 goals
Forward-Franck RIBERY Bayern Munich- 36 Games, 7 goals
Nigeria Team News
Recently relegated Newcastle’s Obafemi Martins will look to make up for his recent poor from by netting against Les Blues, and the speedy forward will likely be paired with veteran forward Nwankwo Kanu.
FA Cup finalists Joseph Yobo and John Obi Mikel have both been called up, whilst Kalu Uche has joined up with the squad after recovering from a late injury scare.
- Joseph Yobo will ahve to recover from his F.A Cup heartbreak
Nigeria face Kenya in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Sunday, so will probably rest some players.Goalkeeper-Vincent Enyeama-Hapoel Tel Aviv- 40 Games Goalkeeper-Austin Ejide-Bastia- 13 Games Goalkeeper-Dele Aiyenugba-Bnei Yehuda- 7 Games Defender-Taye Taiwo-Marseille- 27 Games, 7 goals Defender-Obinna Nwaneri-FC Sion- 30 Games, 1 goal Defender-Danny Shittu-Bolton- 16 Games, 0 goals Defender-Chidi Odiah-CSKA Moscow- 18 Games, 1 goal Defender-Onyekachi Apam-Nice- 1 Game, 0 goals Defender-Olubayo Adefemi-SC Rheindorf- 0 Games, 0 goals Defender-Chibuzor Okonkwo-Bayelsa United- 0 Games, 0 goals Defender-Angelo Obinze Ogbonna-Torino- 0 Games, 0 goals Defender-Uwa Elderson Echiéjilé-Rennes- 1 Game, 0 goals Defender-Joseph Yobo-Everton- 60 Games, 4 goals Defender-Sam Sodje-Leeds United- 2 Games, 0 goals Midfielder-John Obi Mikel-Chelsea- 25 Games, 2 goals Midfielder-Oluwafemi Ajilore-FC GroningenUD Almería- 2 Games, 0 goals Midfielder-Sani Kaita-AS Monaco- 9 Games, 0 goals Midfielder-Dele Adeleye-Sparta Rotterdam MF- 0 Games, 0 goals MidfielderDickson Etuhu-Fulham- 5 Games, 0 goals Midfielder-Seyi Olofinjana-Stoke- 18 Games, 0 goals Midfielder-Oladapo Olufemi- no club (released by Benfica) 1 Game, 0 goals Midfielder-Ayila Yussuf-Dynamo Kiev- 14 Games, 2 goals Midfielder-Sone Aluko-Aberdeen- 0 Games, 0 goals Forward-Nwankwo Kanu-Portsmouth-73 Games, 13 Goals Forward-Victor Obinna-Internazionale- 13 Games, 4 Goals Forward-Joseph Akpala-Club Brugge- 1 Game, 0 Goals Forward-Obafemi Martins-Newcastle United- 22 Games, 13 Goals Forward-Peter Odemwingie- Lokomotiv Moscow- 27 Games, 5 Goals Forward-Ikechukwu Uche-Getafe- 16 Games, 5 Goals Forward-Chinedu Obasi-TSG 1899 Hoffenheim- 15 Games, 3 Goals Forward-John Utaka- Portsmouth- 35 Games, 5 Goals Forward-Michael Eneramo-Esperance- 2 Games, 1 Goal
Head to Head’s
#1. KARIM BENZEMA v. JOSEPH YOBO
The young lyon forward has dissapointed in his recent French national team outings, and many are beginning to worry that he’s not capitilising on the early promise he has shown. Nevertheless, he is still a formidible opponent for any defender. Benzema is likely to play in a direct style with Henry and Ribery playing off his shoulder. It will be Yobo’s job to stop Benzema’s attacks and the Everton defender will have his work cut out. However Yobo has been in great form for Everton and will relish testing his strenght against Benzema.
MY PREDICTION: JOSEPH YOBO. There’s no doubt that Benzema is a quality player, but I think Yobo is playing well enough to keep him quiet.
#2. JEAN-ALAIN BOUMSONG v. OBAFEMI MARTINS
Boumsong is not one of France’s better defenders, but Domenech seems to rate him. The former Newcastle defender will be marking a current (but probably not for much longer) Newcastle striker. Martins is a quality player but has had his head down in Newcastle’s last few matches and hasn’t been playing well.
MY PREDICTION: JEAN-ALAIN BOUMSONG. Boumsong might not be the best defender in the world, but he should be able to keep a dis-heartend Martins quiet.
#3. FRANCK RIBERY v. SANI KAITA
Franck Ribery is one of the best players in the world and, if you believe everything you read, could be heading to Real Madrid an a record-breaking transfer record. Monaco’s Sani Kaita will be tasked with hassling Ribery and not letting him dictate the play from the middle of the park- a very hard task.
MY PREDICTION: FRANCK RIBERY. Simply put, when he’s in form there’s very few players that can keep Ribery quiet. Sani Kaita isn’t one of them.
#4. RAYMOND DOMENECH v. SHAIBU AMODU
Whilst tonight is only a friendly, Domenech finds himself under a constant barrage of pressure, and the often fickle French fans will expect a win. Domenech is likely to field a strong, attacking team whilst Amodu will want to rest some key players for the forthcoming clash against Kenya. Expect Nigeria to settle for a draw.
France to win: 1/2 Draw: 13/5 Nigeria: 11:2
France/France:7/5 Draw/France:3/1 Nigeria/France:25/1
France/Draw:16/1 Draw/Draw:7/2 Nigeria/Draw:16/1
France/Nigeria:80/1 Draw/Nigeria:11/1 Nigeria/Nigeria: 11/1
First Goalscorer: Franck Ribery: 3/1, Thierry Henry: 4/1, Obafemi Martins: 8/1
Head to Head Stats
Position in World Cup qualifying group: France: 2nd / Nigeria: 3rd
Games played (games won) in qualifying: France: 5 (3) / Nigeria: 1 (0)
Current FIFA World ranking: France:10th / Nigeria:30th
Highest ever FIFA World ranking: France:1st (May 2001 and between Jan 02&May 02) / Nigeria:5th (April 1994)
Lowest ever FIFA World ranking: France:25th (April 1998) / Nigeria:82nd (November 1999)
- France’s EURO 2000 success saw them top the FIFA rankings a year later
It looks like Nigeria will play a slightly under strenght team as they face a crucial game on Sunday, but I’m not predicting a walk in the park for France. Nigeria are a tough, physical side and France haven’t played that wonderfully in their last few outings. I’m going for 3-1 France, but I think the game will be closer than the scoreline suggests. I’m going for France to go two up thanks to Ribery and Henry goals, Martins to get one back and Sagna to make sure of the win.