Domenech facing tactical nightmare

KNYSNA, South Africa - France coach Raymond Domenech has two tactical systems to choose from before his side's opening World Cup match and a slight problem which is that neither really works.

Domenech, who will be replaced by Laurent Blanc after the finals and has everything to prove in South Africa, shelved his cautious, 4-2-3-1 formation for a bolder, 4-3-3 system with two wingers and one centre forward for his side's three warm-up games.

Many fans and observers were delighted to see France, who have many creative players with a taste for attack, field just one holding midfielder instead of two and signal their intention to race the ball forward at last.

It seemed promising at first when France, who had bored their supporters with dull performances for years, were exciting to watch for a change in a 2-1 win over Costa Rica.

With Jeremy Toulalan playing in front of the defence, Nicolas Anelka preferred to Thierry Henry up front and Franck Ribery and Sidney Govou acting as wingers, France looked shaky at the back but created many chances.

"The system offers interesting solutions up front but has its downside which is that it does not give as many guarantees defensively," Domenech told reporters after that.

The most passionate advocate of the old-fashioned, flamboyant 4-3-3 in France, Guy Roux shared the France coach's view: "Going forward, it looked very good," Roux, who coached French side Auxerre for decades and always fielded 4-3-3 formations, told Reuters.

"Defensively, I would say it was a start, and I wouldn't say a good start," added the now retired coach, at the World Cup as a television pundit.


Sadly enough for the fans, the 1-1 draw in Tunisia that followed was more worrying and then came an embarrassing 1-0 defeat by China that suggested the new system, with three men up front instead of just one, was maybe not a good idea after all.

The most likely scenario, however, is for Domenech to stick with the new 4-3-3 system, if only for consistency and to benefit from the work done during the preparations.

"We realise we have a lot of fine-tuning to do and little time to do it," midfielder Alou Diarra, his mind already on France's first game against Uruguay on Friday in Cape Town, told reporters.

"We can't really say we have improved during the warm-up games," he added. "We still need time to adapt (to the new system) and don't have much left."

France, who made an early exit from Euro 2008 and have kept struggling since, needing a controversial playoff win over Ireland to win a ticket to South Africa, do not have much to lose by carrying on with their 4-3-3.

No longer the awe-inspiring, watertight outfit they once were, even when they have two players in front of their back four and a lone forward, they might as well try something different.

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