in Austria, the Blues on slippery ground

in Austria, the Blues on slippery ground


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Vienna (AFP) – The French team advances on a thread before facing Austria, suspended in the need for a victory in the League of Nations and the search for tactical certainties for the 2022 World Cup on Friday (20:45) on the turf subject to controversy from the Ernst-Happel Stadium in Vienna.

Coach Didier Deschamps is in a balancing position midway through the June rally, poorly boarded with a loss (2-1 against Denmark), a draw (1-1 in Croatia), two players in trouble (Kylian Mbappé and N’Golo Kanté), questions about his playing system, and an Austrian pitch whose condition he is questioning.

On the other hand, the desire to defend the title won in the League of Nations invites to trigger a state of emergency, with a return of the usual starters and the tactical scheme experienced this season, which the coach has set aside time to a match in Split.

On the other hand, the need to prepare for the World Cup, six months before the departure for Qatar, encourages the extension of the field of experimentation, in particular by giving playing time to substitutes, low-skilled players or novices, such as Ibrahima Konaté.

“The two (objectives) are not incompatible,” Deschamps said Thursday. “We’re going to do everything we can to think about winning” against Austria, but “it’s still a matter of preparation,” he said, referring to a busy schedule and tired and even injured players.

Mbappé still preserved

French defender Ibrahima Konate in training the day after the France Croatia match in the League of Nations on June 7, 2022 in Split FRANCK FIFE AFP / Archives

The boss of the world champions, who had only lined up for two Mondays in Split (Benjamin Pavard and Presnel Kimpembe), may also have to spend his services on Mbappé and Kanté, who suffered a knee injury and ‘Adrien Rabiot, exempt from group training on Thursday night.

In Vienna, the expected rotation gives hope to Konaté, who is able to play either in a three-man defensive curtain (as before in Leipzig) or in a four-man back base (a device in which he plays for Liverpool).

In a packed Ernst-Happel stadium, with a maximum of 44,800 spectators expected, the 23-year-old central defender would like to enjoy the first thrills of a Marseillaise with the A jersey on his back, alongside the tricolor stars Hugo Lloris, Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema, expected in the starting “eleven”.

The unfortunate Champions League finalist is running for a start, as William Saliba has already played a half-time at Saint-Denis and then a game at Split.

In the middle, Aurélien Tchouaméni is the only Frenchman to have played two games in a row, which gives hope to Boubacar Kamara and Mattéo Guendouzi, since Rabiot and Kanté are not at the top of their form.

The hole? “Hard to believe”

The Ernst-Happel stadium lawn on the eve of the match between Austria and France on June 9, 2022 in Vienna
The Ernst-Happel stadium lawn on the eve of the match between Austria and France on June 9, 2022 in Vienna FRANCK FIFE AFP

The risk of injury, precisely, can trot in the minds of the players, at the end of an endless season and on a lawn that has been talked about a lot in recent hours.

The appearance of a hole at least 30 centimeters deep in the middle of the field on Monday at the end of Austria-Denmark, probably caused by heavy rains, left the threat of a postponement hovering and caused controversy in the local press. On Thursday night, Deschamps and his deputy Guy Stéphan inspected the area for a long time, where a large strip of new grass was visible.

“It was pretty hard to believe, it even felt like a montage. A priori everything was checked and analyzed,” said Captain Hugo Lloris. “There may be a little bit of apprehension when we get to the pitch, but the game-training practice will allow us to test that turf well and pick the right spikes.”

Austrian defender David Alaba in pre-match press conference between Austria and France on June 9, 2022 in Vienna
Austrian defender David Alaba in pre-match press conference between Austria and France on June 9, 2022 in Vienna FRANCK FIFE AFP

The Blues expect a delicate opposition in Austria, where they have not won since 1993.

Against Croatia (3-0 win) and Denmark (2-1 defeat), the team of defender David Alaba “was impressive in dynamism, determination, physical freshness,” Deschamps pointed out. “It’s up to us not to get caught up and use the depths because it’s a team playing very high,” Lloris said.

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