Football: the Bleuets held by the United States in a preparation match for the Olympic Games

Thierry Henry must feel like a site manager whose work remains enormous

Football: the Bleuets held by the United States in a preparation match for the Olympic Games

Thierry Henry must feel like a site manager whose work remains enormous. Because four months before the Olympic Games (JO), the coach of the French under-23 team has not necessarily made much progress after the draw conceded in preparation, Monday March 25 in Sochaux (Doubs), against the United States, the Bleuets' first opponent at the Olympics.

If the French had all the difficulty in overcoming the Ivory Coast on Friday in Châteauroux (3-2), they thought they would dispose of the young Americans much more easily when they led 2-0 about ten minutes from the end of regulation time. But the total drop in intensity in the final straight was fatal to them, with two goals conceded in quick succession.

“We were in Olympic Games mode, with two close matches and we were not able to finish as we should,” lamented Thierry Henry, more disappointed by the cascade of injuries and withdrawals that he had to deplore during the rally than by the result of the meeting.

“We knew we were going to suffer at the end of the match, since with all the injuries, I couldn’t make any changes. On the other side, it came in all directions. It's like that. Bravo to the United States. I was happy with the match for at least 70 minutes,” added the French coach, who particularly regretted the injury to Bradley Barcola against Ivory Coast and the withdrawals of Lenny Yoro and Enzo Millot, who fell ill between these two preparation matches.

Rayan Cherki delights

With a completely overhauled team where only Manu Koné, the captain, Bafodé Diakité, moving from full-back to central defender, and Maghnes Akliouche had kept their place, the Bleuets took ten minutes to get into the game. It took two first American twigs and a first real opportunity, a header from Paxten Aaronson diverted by Guillaume Restes, the French goalkeeper, for Rayan Cherki, Akliouche and their partners to finally go first. The midfielders of Lyon and Monaco then showed their full technical range, putting the American defense to torture thanks to their dribbling.

It was also on one of their combinations that Cherki infiltrated the opposing area and provoked a handball from John Tolkin and a penalty converted by Arnaud Kalimuendo (1-0, 26th).

First not called up by Henry for this gathering, then drafted following the failures of Joris Chotard and Georginio Rutter, Cherki was dubbed by the public at the Bonal stadium, appreciating the quality of his passes, his dribbling and even his juggling in full opposing surface.

After his exit - he was replaced by Elye Wahi in the 78th minute -, but also after that of Bladley Loko who fell ill (55th), and Manu Koné injured in the left thigh (63rd), the Blues collapsed. Andy Diouf's goal in the 79th minute on a good shot should have allowed them to take cover (2-0). On the contrary, it galvanized the Americans, who came back in a flash thanks to shots from Griffin Yow (86th, 2-1) and Cade Cowell (89th, 2-2), both of whom came into play shortly before.

Reunion in June in Clairefontaine

“We are leading the score and we must do much better,” regretted Arnaud Kalimuendo at the microphone of La Chaîne L’Equipe. Even though we did good things throughout the match, we had to be able to keep this result until the end. »

Thierry Henry will meet his players in June at Clairefontaine for a first preparation course before the Olympic competition. Then the Bleuets will play three friendly matches, on July 4, 11 and 17 against opponents to be determined. They will then have entered their base camp near Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône), before returning to the United States and New Zealand on July 24 and 30 in Marseille. The Bleuets will have to wait to find out their last opponent (July 27 in Nice). A play-off will oppose Guinea and an Asian team at the beginning of May.

At the same time, the French coach has numerous administrative obligations to fulfill. In May, the list of around a hundred players established at the start of the year will be reduced by half. Then, on July 5, the final list comprising 18 players, including two goalkeepers, will be sent to Paris 2024 and FIFA. Until then, we must hope that Thierry Henry will have succeeded in clearing the ground to build a competitive team.