This is not a misprint that we will be revealing to you on The Stoppage Time. You know, this Labor Day Weekend has been a weekend of upsets, with college football having its share. Costa Rica’s victory over the USA is an upset in that the USMNT had form against them in their prior meeting. At the Stadium Municipal in Toulouse, one of the biggest upsets in world football had taken place.
It is unique that we call this an upset because this was in fact a scoreless draw. But Luc Holtz’s Red Lions of Luxembourg made the manager look like the old Notre Dame fighting Irish gridiron football coach of the past, Lou Holtz (no relation) as they put on a brave performance and held Didier Deschamps’s Bleus of France scoreless. That’s right, France actually played like a National 1 side, a team whose individuals wanted to focus on their clubs and not their country.
1914 – It's the 1st time France failed to win against Luxemburg since… February 1914 (loss 4-5). Duchy. pic.twitter.com/P4ilSCOVcf
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) September 3, 2017
Our man of the match in this FIFA World Cup Qualifier is Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert. He is 37, spent his only few years of French football playing for the reserve team of Ligue 1 laggards FC Metz, and is one of the regulars of the Paris Saint-Germain of Luxembourg, F91 Dudelange. Joubert stood on his head in Toulouse, making textbook stops, being in the right position, and neutralizing sequences that the hosts delivered.
France made a fatal mistake of treating this game like a glorified friendly. Every incisive ball was telegraphed by the Luxembourg backline led by FC Metz defender Chris Philipps. His ability to hold Kylian Mbappe at bay may have helped him on Sunday, but taking on a Neymar-led Paris Saint-Germain may prove to be more difficult. The shooting was woeful.
With the NFL season days away, one would forgive France’s shooters like Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann for thinking that league scouts were in the stands evaluating for a new field goal kicker or two to sail across the pond and don a new, bruising challenge in pads. Wide left, wide right, over the bar, woodwork. The inaccurate precision of France’s shooters against Luxembourg means that their World Cup campaign comes down to the wire, with the Netherlands rebounding and Sweden winning as well.
France's all-time record against Luxembourg:
The first ever stalemate between the sides. 🤝 pic.twitter.com/Ek6yNGZAA7
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 3, 2017
The local and national press in France have every right to start calling for changes to the formation and attacking style that has been predictable and without originality. Furthermore, Mbappe’s ball control and dribbling will need to be worked on. This is why he will have a key teammate to teach him the proper way to be more responsible with the ball and string sequences in Neymar Santos Jr. This was an incomplete performance from Mbappe and a reality check will need to be in place when he introduces himself not too far from Luxembourg itself in the town of Metz.
To conclude, a step forward for France in their FIFA World Cup Qualifying run is offset by a massive step back. Les Bleus must be responsible with their finishing, avoid the type of trajectory associated with gridiron, and rotate one or two steps ahead of their opponents.
In fact, the match could have ended 1-0 Luxembourg had Gerson Rodrigues scored on a breakaway late in the second half, only to hit the right far post. Bulgaria will be taking very good notes on the compactness of the Red Lions and their counterattacking. France can and will be beaten if they play with the speed and insultingly slow reaction typical of a National 1 side. The margin for error is officially gone.