LONDON ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Gael Kakuta of Fulham in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on February 2 2011 in London England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Gael Kakuta's ride through the FIFA U20 World Cup was a very up and down one. The same can be said for the French team as a whole. For as much talent as they had to display, they looked extremely disorganized and like they had never played together before. While they managed to reach the semi-finals, they didn't do so in particularly impressive fashion. They finished third in their group, barely advancing to the round of 16 from the round of 24. At that point they manged to squeak out wins in their next three games before being thouroughly outplayed in both the semis and third place game. I was expecting a lot from the French, and was extremely disappointed overall in what they had to show.
As the reigning top player from last summer's UEFA champions, Kakuta was a natural selection as a starter for France. He started their first two games of the group stage, and frankly wasn't very good on the whole. Kakuta was playing both of those games as an attacking central midfielder, and he was displaying a tendency towards first touch passing every ball that found it's way to his feet. Not many of his passes found the mark though, and Kakuta was relegated to the bench from that point forward in the tournament.
Kakuta came on as a substitute in each of the next five games and played all over the pitch. In his five substitute appearances he played one game on the left wing, one on the right, one as a striker, one in an advanced midfield role, and one in a traditional central midfield role. Once again, Kakuta was hit and miss. He looked very good in both appearances on the wing, especially his game on the right flank. He also looked quite good as a central midfielder, as he was taking his time on the ball instead of rushing his passes. He showed better passing skills when he was deployed centrally, although much of that probably came from him simply being used to his teammates as it was six games into the tournament at that point.
Frankly, I don't really know what to make of Kakuta in this tournament. He certainly showed flashes of brilliance (as he did when setting up the quarterfinal winner against Nigeria), and it's hard to say if his passing struggles had anything to do with him or simply the generally terrible organization of the French team. I actually was really glad to see they were using him in multiple different positions as I believe he's not really best suited as a left sided winger, and I'd like to see him moving around like that some more with a little more organized club as well as teammates that he's used to playing with.
Here is the aforementioned assist from the Nigeria game. It's the best embeddable highlight of it I could find, and unfortunately you can't see his run down the right side of the field to create the goal in it:
If you watched the tournament, the ESPN guys kept saying that Kakuta was heading out on loan to Fulham this season. Don't put too much into their talk, as there is actually nothing definite with Gael at this point and the club is still evaluating what to do with him. Unfortunately for Kakuta, AVB got a much smaller look at him in training than most other players because of this tournament. I'd assume AVB will be watching him closely in training at this point, as he really is the type of player we seem to be looking to buy (although far more raw still). I'd expect to see him heading out on loan shortly, although I have no idea where. Wherever he ends up though, I hope he manages to find some much more consistent form than he had in this tournament. Overall I was thoroughly disappointed by his play over the past month.