France find rhythm after error-strewn start back in front of fans

By Sports Desk November 06, 2021

France were delighted to welcome back a home crowd at the Stade de France for Saturday's Test against Argentina, but captain Antoine Dupont suggested the occasion contributed to their sloppy play.

Les Bleus were playing a home Test for the first time since crowds returned following the coronavirus shutdown.

Dupont and his team-mates were able to celebrate the reunion with a win, edging Los Pumas 29-20 despite having to wait until the 50th minute for the first try through Thibaud Flament.

Melvyn Jaminet's work from the tee had kept France in the match up to that point and he finished with five penalties along with successful conversions from both tries.

But Dupont recognised Les Bleus lacked discipline in their opening November international, referring to "a lot of mistakes" in a post-match interview with France Tele.

"The victory is there but we are able to do much better," the stand-in skipper added.

"It also felt good to no longer sing the Marseillaise alone in a stadium. It's been a long time since we've played together.

"There was a lot of appetite and enthusiasm on everyone's part, which led to small mistakes but it was for good reason."

Related items

  • 'Messi is the only one guaranteed a place' – Di Maria not taking World Cup spot for granted 'Messi is the only one guaranteed a place' – Di Maria not taking World Cup spot for granted

    Angel Di Maria is concerned he has yet to do enough to guarantee himself a place in Argentina's World Cup squad due to uncertainty surrounding his future at club level.

    The 34-year-old is without a club after leaving Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer following a seven-season spell in the French capital.

    He has been linked with a number of teams, with Serie A giants Juventus reportedly close to agreeing a one-year deal for the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player.

    Speaking earlier this week, meanwhile, newly appointed Rosario Central boss Carlos Tevez revealed he is hoping to bring Di Maria back to the Argentine club.

    Di Maria will not have long to settle at his new side before Qatar 2022 begins on November 21, with Argentina in Group C alongside Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland.

    And despite playing a key part in his country's successful qualifying campaign with three goals, the free agent is not taking his place in the 26-man squad for granted.

    "The only one guaranteed to be in is Lionel Messi," Di Maria, who has appeared at three previous World Cup finals, told TNT Sports. 

    "Four months from now you don't know. I have to change clubs, adapt again, play and feel good – that will make a difference."

    Di Maria is Argentina's fourth-most capped player of all time with 122 appearances, behind only Messi (162), Javier Mascherano (147) and Javier Zanetti (145).

    He made 31 appearances for PSG in his final season at the Parc des Princes and registered 13 goal involvements – five goals of his own and a further eight assists.

    That is a tally only Neymar (21), Messi (25) and Kylian Mbappe (60) could better among PSG players in the 2021-22 campaign.

    Juve remain the favourites to sign Di Maria and the attacking midfielder confirmed the Italian side's interest, as well as commenting on previous links to Barcelona.

    "Juventus are the biggest club in Italy and one of the teams interested in me," he said. "Right now I am thinking things through, but I am focused on my holidays and family.

    "Barcelona are one of the best teams in the world and I have always had to play against them in the past."

  • England star May a doubt for first Australia Test after testing positive for COVID-19 England star May a doubt for first Australia Test after testing positive for COVID-19

    Jonny May has tested positive for coronavirus just eight days before the first Test between England and Australia, leaving the winger's availability uncertain.

    May was named as part of Eddie Jones' 36-man touring squad for the three-Test series, which starts on July 2 in Perth.

    The 32-year-old has played 69 times for England but could struggle to feature in the opening Test, with May having to spend seven days in isolation as local regulations in Australia stipulate.

    May, who is England's second top try scorer in history, missed the Six Nations after undergoing knee surgery in January, making his international comeback in the 52-21 thrashing to the Barbarians last Sunday.

    Head coach Jones could be without his star winger but refused to rule him out ahead of the clash with the Wallabies.

    "We're not going to rule Jonny May out at this stage. We'll just see how he is," Jones said on Friday.

    "Potentially he'll be available next Thursday to train, so we'll have a look to see what he's like because he's experienced and he's showed in his first game back against the Barbarians that he's lacking game time and that he's got his best rugby ahead of him.

    "We'll just monitor his situation and make an assessment closer to the day when he gets out."

  • Lionel Messi at 35: Could this be PSG and Argentina superstar's defining year? Lionel Messi at 35: Could this be PSG and Argentina superstar's defining year?

    To suggest the next 12 months may well define Lionel Messi's career would be doing a disservice to what we have witnessed up close over the past 18 campaigns. 

    From boy wonder to the greatest player ever in the view of many, and now into a new chapter with Paris Saint-Germain, the Argentina forward has nothing to prove to anyone.

    And yet on the day he turns 35 – the average age of retirement for a footballer – questions continue to be asked of Messi. 

    Will he win a World Cup – still in the eyes of many the real barometer of a truly great player, even in the era of the Champions League – before he retires? 

    Can he prove himself in a different country after a mixed first season in France? Both of those questions will be answered before he celebrates his 36th birthday in a year's time.

    Stats Perform looks at how Messi's game has already changed, and whether he is still capable of inspiring club and country to glory in possibly the biggest year of his career.
     

    MESSI 2.0

    Ten months have passed since the shock announcement that Messi was bringing an end to his 21-year association with Barcelona to join Ligue 1 giants PSG.

    By his own high standards, Messi's first campaign in Paris was far from great. He scored 11 goals in 34 appearances, down on the 38 scored in his last season with Barca.

    And those 11 goals came from an expected goals (xG) value of 16.8, meaning he scored 5.8 goals fewer than he should have based on the quality of his chances.

    Among players in Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions last season, only six others had a worse return, with Lille striker Burak Yilmaz (8.11 differential) topping the list.

    There were extenuating circumstances, of course, with Messi himself recently opening up on just how badly he struggled after testing positive for coronavirus in January.

    The La Masia product also had to adapt to life outside the place he had called home for more than two decades, seeing him take on an entirely different role.

    While his scoring figures dropped considerably, Messi set up 14 league goals – only once in his last five seasons at Camp Nou (21 in 2019-20) did he assist more in a campaign.

    The majority of his assists last season came from a left-of-centre position outside the box, where he predominantly played alongside Neymar and just off Kylian Mbappe.


    RONALDO SHOWS THE WAY

    The 11 goals Messi scored at the age of 34 is his lowest return since the eight he netted when aged 18 and still in the infancy of his Barcelona career.

    While that can be put down to a change of scenery, and being in the unfamiliar role of having to play second-fiddle to Mbappe, age is also surely a factor.

    At 35 – or 34 as he was last season – Messi will inevitably have to rely more on his footballing brain than his legs to give him an advantage over opponents.

    As showed by Cristiano Ronaldo, though, age is just a number when it comes to the very best, the Portugal star having scored 75 goals in 102 games since his 35th birthday.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic, four months shy of his 41st birthday, has scored an impressive 112 goals in 174 appearances since hitting 35, an age often perceived as being 'over the hill'.


    ALL EYES ON QATAR

    Playing a supporting role may well be something we must come accustomed to when it comes to club level, but for Argentina Messi very much still remains the main man.

    That was clear to see earlier this month when, in his final game in a gruelling campaign, Messi scored all five of Argentina's goals in their thumping friendly win over Estonia.

    That five-goal showing rightly attracted plenty of focus, though it was arguably four days earlier in his side's 3-0 'Finalissima' victory over Italy that Messi truly showed his quality.

    Messi pulled the strings from a slightly deeper position as Argentina, who also boast the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala, showed their credentials.

    He assisted two of Argentina's three goals, including a delightful turn to leave Giovanni Di Lorenzo trailing in his wake before setting up Martinez for a simple finish. 

    On the back of ending their 28-year wait for silverware in 2021 with victory at the Copa America, Lionel Scaloni's men now look good value to challenge for the World Cup.

    Regardless of any more titles he adds to his collection at PSG, Messi lifting the most famous trophy of them all in Qatar later this year would be the defining image of his career.

    Different now he may be, but Messi has a chance to show in his 35th year that he has plenty more left in the tank to turn a great career into the greatest.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.