Going into the final game of the World Championships in a fight to stay alive is not the best scenario for the French ice hockey team, according to journalist Sylvain Taillandier.
It’s a winner takes all clash for the right to stay at the top level of the competition as France and Great Britain meet this afternoon, where victory for one of them will ensure survival.
But the tournament for Phillipe Bozon’s side has been far from ideal, with only one point from their six games so far.
And Taillandier reckons absences to key players, not to mention the change in coach have been big issues for France as they’ve toiled in Group A.
“The tournament is not going well for the French team, but we knew it would be difficult because we’ve got a new coach in Phillipe Bozon, a local legend who played in the NHL and there has been a lack of leaders in the tournament because the best players that play in the NHL like Antoine Roussel and Pierre-Édouard Bellmare are not there,” he said.
“The last coach, Dave Henderson, was there for 15 years so it’s like a revolution for us to see a new coach coming in.
“The main goal of the coach is to get us to the Olympics and try to reach the quarter finals at least in the World Championships, but we’re far away from the last eight in this edition.
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“We’re also missing a good defenceman in Yohann Auvitu and Stephane Da Costa, who is our magician on the ice so it’s hard for us. Missing those guys and a new coach so there’s a lot missing that can make this team better than they have been.
“It’s probably fair to say France are looking at the game with Great Britain in the same way GB are in terms of how big it is in staying away from relegation. We expected that we would had enough points from the other games because it’s not the best way to play a last game.
“We really need to win it to stay in the elite group so it’s not the best scenario for the French team, especially after playing Finland in the later game last night.
“The fans have been split in two over this game and how it could go. Half are worried about what will happen if France loss, while the other half are confident of victory and say that France should be better than GB.”
As both teams get ready for the showdown in Kosice, which faces off at 3.15pm UK time, Taillandier, who owns ‘Le Hockey Franco’, says there are questions over the French team that have lingered throughout the tournament.
But they’re even more relevant with this final game as they look for that crucial win that could save them in the top flight and reckons GB are capable of taking the game to save themselves.
He added: “There have been some goalie questions for the France team. The starter should be Florian Hardy, because he’s the most experienced in the team, but his performances earlier in the competition weren’t bad, but weren’t good either, although he did well against Finland last night.
“Henri-Corentin Buysse came in as the third goalie, but has played well also and at times, has done better than Hardy, so there’s a question over who should start against Great Britain.
“There have been great moments for the team, like the second period against Slovakia, but there were too many errors and you can’t win games against the best teams like that.
“We’ve also found our first offensive line is really great and the coach’s son, Tim Bozon, works well with Damien Fleury and Valentin Claireaux. But it’s hard to find another line after that as they’ve not done so well and the coach has tried to fix that.
“For GB, the question is whether we’ll see the best parts of the French team or the worst, because we’ve seen them both in this tournament.
“I think the British team are great warriors and it won’t be easy for a French team to try and win against a group that have shown a lot of heart. The level has been quite high for the team to really compete, but they can win in the last game.
“They make mistakes, which is normal for a team like that to make the step up, but it’s a team with great values and they will try to make it count for the last game.”