This meeting against Ukraine, Wednesday, October 7, in Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis) – at 9:10 p.m. -, only one man was there, in the background. Yes, but that’s enough when the man in question is called Noël Le Graët, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), and he’s used to having the last word.
So too bad if the France team already faces Portugal on Sunday and moves three days later to Croatia as part of the League of Nations, too bad if the preparation is reduced to a single real training at Clairefontaine, and too bad if the opponent counts his players still available such as a District team on a Sunday morning in January.
The boss of the FFF did everything to find a base for the two friendly matches, against Ukraine and therefore Finland (postponed to November 11), scheduled for March 27 and 31 but canceled due to confinement. “We play them because we need them, at the end of August Le Graët justified West France. Otherwise, we would lose 25 million euros. This is a quarter of what we donate each year to amateur football. ”
Despite a tonnage reduced to a thousand people at the Stade de France, it is at least to save the television rights of the eight meetings scheduled by the end of November. Not to mention the sponsors and partners of the Federation, who have maintained their contracts to this day despite the context.
So to hell with the hellish pace between the resumption of the championships and the European Cups with condensed calendars by December, Didier Deschamps and his players are asked to adapt.
The hundredth for Giroud
To cope with this loaded menu, the breeder has looked broad by ticking off twenty-four names for this triptych. It is not as much as his German counterparts, Joachim Löw, and especially Italian, Roberto Mancini, who respectively selected twenty-nine and thirty-four players for three games. The Frenchman thought to imitate them, before giving up, advancing “Logistical complications”, but also the fear of letting certain auxiliaries spend their international week on the bench or in the stands.
Didier Deschamps is not the kind of employee to criticize his president and unwavering support. During a press point held by videoconference on Tuesday, the world champion recalls the obvious: “A manager never complains about playing too many games. “ Especially when he was deprived of it by the health crisis. So as with his philosophy of play or the choice of his men, the technician will « s’adapter » and guarantees a few minutes in the field for the twenty-four called.
Against Ukraine, the coach says he already knows his starting XI, “Obviously with changes at half-time and during the match to distribute the playing time”. Thus, Steve Mandanda (35 years old) is guaranteed to start in the cages, a way of making the Marseillais digest the imbroglio (and the hazardous management of the FFF) around his true false positive control for Covid-19 on the eve of fly to Sweden on September 5.
Another former, Olivier Giroud (34 years old) will experience his hundredth selection. Despite the context, the opportunity is great for the center forward with 40 selection goals to equal or even exceed Michel Platini and his 41 achievements. “Mr. Platini”, as he says reverently.
Ukraine with only one valid keeper
Opponent reminds Chelsea striker ” good memories ” : November 19, 2013, France is afraid and its coach even more. Beaten 2-0 in the first leg of the World Cup in Kiev, the Blues turned things around four days later (3-0) in a Stade de France never as hot as this autumn evening and prevents Deschamps from a probable departure by the back door. Seven years later, Giroud talks about it “Like a turning point for a generation”.
The Ukrainians have since turned the page to build a new team under the leadership of their coach, Andrei Shevchenko. In office since November 2018, the 2004 Ballon d’Or has given a style and results back to a team brilliantly qualified for the next Euro.
But it is not this promising Ukraine, capable of dominating the Portuguese European champion (2-1) almost a year ago, which will give the reply to the Blues. Since the announcement of his list, Shevchenko has seen his group shrink like hell.
To the six players injured in the exercise of their profession, six others had withdrawn due to Covid-19: two positive players, Andriy Pyatov and Taras Stepanenko, and four contact cases of Chakhtar Donetsk – Junior Moraes, Marlos, Mykola Matvienko and Viktor Kovalenko. Other tests were carried out on Monday in Chantilly (Oise), the Ukrainians’ base camp, and brought two new positive cases : the guards Andreï Lounine and Youri Pankiv.
Fortunately, the UEFA regulations allow some latitude in this situation and specify that a selection can appear on the pitch if it has at least thirteen players and a goalkeeper. A few hours before the match, the Ukrainians are still in the nails since Chevtchenko had the presence of mind to bring with him another goalkeeper, the neophyte Georgi Bouchtchane. Here is Noël Le Graët reassured.
Léo Dubois, tested positive for Covid-19, is replaced by Ferland Mendy
Ukraine is not the only team affected by the coronavirus before this meeting. The right-back of the France team, Léo Dubois, tested positive for Covid-19, was “Placed in solitary confinement” at the end of the training of the Blues in which he took part, Tuesday evening, at Clairefontaine. The Lyon player will miss the October rally, the French Football Federation said.
Dubois will not play Ukraine in a friendly on Wednesday and will be replaced digitally for the remainder of the camp by Real Madrid defender Ferland Mendy. “His Covid-19 test conducted by UEFA on Tuesday morning was found to be positive, Léo Dubois was placed in solitary confinement, after receiving the results, at the end of training, this Tuesday evening”, said the French Football Federation. “Like the entire delegation, Léo Dubois had undergone a test prior to the rally. The result was negative ”, she added.