2017 Gold Cup preview: French Guiana
By Matthew Gourlie
French Guiana are not members of FIFA, but they seem to fit into CONCACAF just fine.
The French overseas department entered their first Gold Cup as an unknown. On the eve of their first match they added an air of intrigue.
The mystery surrounds Florent Malouda, the former French international who was born in the French Guiana capital of Cayenne.
Malouda was looking to end his long, distinguished career by representing the place of his birth as an international. It appeared to be one of the more compelling subplots of the tournament before CONCACAF ruled him ineligible.
Not that they told anyone. A FIFA spokesperson told Sports Illustrated’s Brian Strauss that Malouda is ineligible. However, it didn’t say anything when French Guiana submitted their provisional 40-man roster with Malouda on it or their final 23-man squad.
Malouda won four straight Ligue 1 title with Olympique Lyonnais before winning a Premier League title and the UEFA Champions League while at Chelsea. He would be the only player at the Gold Cup to start a World Cup final as he did in 2006. Malouda won 80 caps for France.
In 2007, Guadeloupe used 41-year-old Jocelyn Angloma at the Gold Cup. Angolma starred for France at Euro92 and had picked up 37 career caps, but hadn’t played for Les Bleus in 10 years.
Since, however, CONCACAF has added a clause that they follow FIFA eligibility rules — even for French overseas departments like French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe that are part of another country — and Malouda isn’t eligible.
Malouda has already played for twice for French Guyana was they finished third at the Caribbean Cup in June.
Jaïr Karam, who co-manages the team with Marie-Rose Carême, told Sports Illustrated that Malouda would play in the opener against Canada.
“We’re the minnows here, but we will do everything we can to give ourselves a chance,” Karam said.
That should result in a forfeit and the awarding of a 3-0 victory to Canada. But, of course, this is CONCACAF. Nothing ever seems straight forward.
The off the pitch drama draws attention away from what should be an engaging story from the side from South America.
While Malouda is their biggest name, les Yana Dòkò are hardly a one-man side.
Keeper Donovan Léon from Stade Brestois and 35-year-old defender Cédric Fabien from Tarbes are both very experienced second division players in France.
Up top Sloan Privat has 36 goals in 162 Ligue 1 matches and the Guingamp target forward has six goals in three caps for French Guiana.
Ludovic Baal, a left back from Stade Rennais, has logged 147 matches in Ligue 1 and 140 more in Ligue 2 primarily for Lens and Le Mans.
Kévin Rimane can’t get a match at Paris St. Germain, but the defender was arguably French Guiana’s best player as he played in the midfield at their two recent Caribbean Cup matches.
Privat is complimented by Malouda, but also Roy Contout, a 32-year-old striker who has Champions League experience with Auxerre and 191 Ligue 1 matches to his credit.
Of course French Guiana is more than just players from the French league and players like defender Hugues Roseimé and left midfielder Rhudy Evens didn’t look remotely out of place with teammates who boast more impressive resumés.
French Guiana boasts seven players who are 30 or older and only have three who are younger than 25 which must make them the oldest team in the tournament.
They nearly reached the tournament two years ago. They beat Honduras 3-1 in the playoff, but lost the return leg 3-0 in Honduras to bow out.
French Guiana won’t have the depth of most of their opponents. There is a bigger gulf in talent in their squad than with most sides, but there is quality and there is talent. With no bigger international stage and no bigger goal to achieve, the French Guiana players are here because they want to be and they are not a side to be underestimated.
Co-managers Carême and Karam have been in charge since 2013 and nominally play a 4-2-3-1.
As is often the case, this French Guiana side has never played together. The team that competed in the Caribbean Cup was missing Ludovic Baal and Contout, who will surely slot into the starting 11. At the Caribbean Cup Malouda played behind a lone striker and was on the left side of midfield, while PSG man Rimane was in front of the back four. Rimane worked tirelessly to link the back to the midfield and Malouda was combining smartly in the midfield with the wide players and the attack. With their teammates orbiting around them, they were able to retain possession well. Evens was wide on the left, but would also switch sides. Contout would upgrade the right side of their attack. Loïc Baal sat in front of the back four, but also popped up in the area to score against Jamaica. There is a fluidity to how French Guiana plays even if at times it lacks the rigid structure that some of the other underdogs will display.
22 Donovan LÉON
Stade Brestois 29/FRA • 10/0 • 24
Composed and confident keeper. He showed good hands and composure in traffic in grabbing crosses during the Caribbean Cup. Earned a couple of starts in Ligue 1 with Auxerre, but began playing regularly once they were relegated starting 19 matches in 13-14 and 14-15. Hasn’t gotten much action with Brest since transferring in 2015. Is often French Guiana’s captain.
1 Simon LUGIER
US Saint-Malo/FRA • 1/0 • 27
Played the entire match in a 3-0 friendly win over Barbados just before the Caribbean Cup semifinal. His club is in the Championnat de France Amateur, the fourth flight of French football.
16 Jean-Banuel PETIT-HOMME
US Matoury • 0/0 • 26
The starting keeper for the two-time defending Honour Division winners as champions of French Guiana.
17 Inrick BAAL
CSC de Cayenne • 4/0 • 25
Like Ludovic Baal, he grew up in the same neighbourhood and is also a left-footed defender. Despite being an international, he still plays futsal when he has time to improve his ball skills and his right foot.
8 Jean-David LEGRAND
Stade Bordelais/FRA • 12/1 • 26
Left back seems likely to lose his place in the team to Ludovic Baal. Has pace and a willingness to get up and down the flank, but struggled as a 1v1 defender. Didn’t cut out many crosses against Jamaica and also was biting on fakes and leaving his feet needlessly.
14 Grégory LESCOT
FC Chartres/FRA • 10/0 • 28
Started at right back in the Caribbean Cup, a big winger, he plays with his head up looking to combine and make runs. Came close with a left-footed shot in the area against Jamaica. Chartres are in the French fourth flight.
6 Kévin RIMANE
Paris Saint-Germain/FRA • 14/1 • 26
He can’t get a game for the big club — his Ligue 1 career is but a two-minute cameo two seasons ago — but does play for the PSG B reserves. At first he grabs the eye with his blonde beard and then by his play. He is listed as a defender, but he linked the defence and midfield with surging runs out of the back and his endless work rate. He has great recovery speed and can provide cover along the back four as needed. He is the outlet when they look to play short. A very good right-footed dead ball specialist as well.
2 Hugues ROSIMÉ
US Matoury • 6/0 • 32
Teams from the French Guiana league are eligible for the Couple de France and Rosimé captained Matoury to their first and only French cup win a seventh round victory over CMS Oissel on penalties in 2014. The central defender is composed defensively and looks to play balls along the ground out of the back. Undersized for a central defender, he is strong on the ball and aggressive.
7 Anthony SOUBERVIE
FC Chambly/FRA • 9/1 • 33
Veteran right back who made 30 appearances with Chamble in the French third tier last season. Played in five of the six Caribbean Cup matches that earned them their trip to the Gold Cup.
3 Marvin TORVIC
US Matoury • 26/1 • 29
The six-foot-four central defender will likely come in for Rosimé and if he does he will add some valuable height in the back four. He appears to be headed back to Matoury after spending last season with Città di Campobasso in Italy’s Serie D. Torvic has also played in Finland and Germany and is the most-capped member of the squad. A little heavy-footed, he gave away an early penalty against Haiti with a clumsy foul in the match that earned them a trip to the Gold Cup.
10 Loïc BAAL
ASM Belfort/FRA • 8/1 • 25
Sat in front of the back four when in possession against Jamaica. Took his goal well in that match. He led Belfort with four goals this past season. Which helps explain why Belfort were at the bottom of the third tier Championnat National, but showed a good scoring touch for a defensive midfielder.
23 Ludovic BAAL
Stade Rennais/FRA • 10/3 • 31
Baal can play in the midfield and if Malouda doesn’t feature, perhaps he will. He is primarily used as a left back in Ligue 1 where he played every minute of Stade Rennais’ first 23 matches before a groin injury sidelined him briefly. He made 33 starts, but finished the season with a hip injury and missed the knockout stages of the Caribbean Cup. He uses his size and body positioning well defensively. He has quick feet and is very comfortable playing his way out of trouble and sending in dangerous balls from the flank.
20 Marc EDWIGE
CSC de Cayenne • 19/1 • 30
Experienced central defender hasn’t featured as much in recent years, but did make two appearances in the Caribbrean Cup qualifying tournament and played the full 90 against Barbados in June.
5 Cédric FABIEN
Tarbes/FRA • 2/0 • 35
Listed as a midfielder, Fabien slotted into the middle of the back four and provided leadership and composure. A former captain at Boulougne, the 15 year professional read everything quickly and made smart, calm decisions. He wanted to join French Guiana sooner, but was never able to get a release from his clubs.
13 Miguel HAABO
AS Etoile Matoury • 12/1 • 26
Made his debut in 2012 and after a long stretch away from the team, he made two late appearances in the Caribbean Cup qualifiers and then came on in extra time of the semifinal and started as a holding midfielder beside Loïc Baal in the 1-0 win over Martinique in the third-place match.
15 Florent MALOUDA
Delhi Dynamos/IND • 2/0 • 37
Even in his advancing years, Malouda’s touch, speed of thought and vision are still world class. And, to be fair, his legs looked like they still had a lot of miles left in them as well as he put in a lot of work to help keep the midfield ticking. Takes left-footed set pieces.
9 Arnold ABELINTI
JA Drancy/FRA • 3/2 • 25
Played on the right side in an attacking role, he had flashes of being shockingly fast — without the ball. With the ball at his feet, he was far less dynamic and wasn’t as involved as much of the play went through Malouda on the left. Had a penalty saved in a friendly win against Barbados, but scored off of the rebound.
11 Roy CONTOUT
Renaissance de Berkane/MOR • 12/2 • 32
A second striker who often plays on the right side of the attack. He missed the Caribbean Cup knockout round, but seems likely to take Abelinti’s starting spot. Great quick feet and balance Contout is a superb dribbler who likes to get wide and take on defenders before putting dangerous balls into the box.
21 Schaquille DUTARD
Guingamp/FRA • 3/1 • 20
With Privat unavailable for the semifinal of the Caribbean Cup, Dutard led the line as the target forward. He got into some good wide positions and played intelligent balls into the box. He looked more comfortable with the ball at his feet than he did trying to play with his back to goal.
4 Rhudy EVENS
US Matoury • 38/5 • 29
Doesn’t have the CV of half of his teammates, but against Jamaica he seemed to have a better vision, touch and movement than almost all of them. Playing as a wide midfielder the dreadlocked playmaker and Malouda kept finding each other for one-twos. Evens would also drift to the right side and find space.
19 Jules HAABO
AS Etoile Matoury • 1/0 • 23
Another right-sided attacking midfielder, Jules Habbo made his debut in the third-place match against Martinique. One of the few young players in the side, he may struggle for playing time.
18 Sloan PRIVAT
Guingamp/FRA • 3/6 • 27
Scored three straight goals to erase a 2-0 deficit and lead French Guiana to a 5-2 win over Haiti that took them to the Gold Cup. His first two goals came against Honduras in the 2015 Gold Cup playoff, showing he isn’t padding his international scoring record against minnows. He finishes well in the air, is capable of the spectacular finish and has a strong left foot, Privat also shows smart movement in the box. Got a French U21 cap and bounced around after leaving Sochaux — including a brief spell in Belgium with KAA Gent — before being loaned to Guingamp and settling back into French football. When he isn’t scoring goals he builds large model airplanes.
12 Mickaël SOLVI
US Matoury • 13/3 • 30
Spent time in France as a youth player, but has spent most of his career at home. A playmaking No. 10 for the French Guiana champions, the left-footed player is comfortable playing on the flank as well. Earned most of his caps in 2014, but played the full friendly against Barbados in June.