Perhaps France is the most convincing team of the teams that have already started. Despite Australia’s early goal, the champions started with a 4-1 win. Didier Deschamps’ team dominated in every direction – territory, possessions, and high points.
There is an element of surprise in this. France issued the show amid a terrible injury crisis. Before the tournament lost Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante, and Mike Maignan. After the announcement of the application – Karim Benzema, Christopher Nkunku, and Presnel Kimpembe. In the first minutes of yesterday’s meeting – Luka Hernandez.
Perhaps, the success in the first round is a reason to once again admire the personnel wealth of France. Even after all the injuries, the squad looked very impressive. But do not underestimate this victory – in a tournament where everyone already has little time to prepare, France has to put together an almost new team with new connections along the way.
Check also this article about Kylian Mbappe: “A Journey from Monaco to PSG and Beyond“
Updated France looked something like this:
The 4-2-3-1 formation, but with and without the ball, there were constant transformations that were tied not so much too complex well-oiled ideas as to the individual comfort of the players. Understanding the asymmetries and interactions within this formation is very interesting.
Mbappé + Giroud = tactical balance
Kylian Mbappé is one of the most devoted fans of Olivier Giroud. During this season, he compared the role at PSG and the national team: “I play differently in the national team – there is much more freedom here than at the club. The manager has a clean 9 like Giroud who plays tight against center-backs and I go down and look for space. At PSG, I’m a tip, it’s a completely different game.”
Giroud is the provider of freedom for Mbappe. Freedom is both the ability to move in different directions in search of a zone where you can cause maximum damage to the opponent and in the literal sense, freedom from the guardianship of the defenders, who are distracted by Giroud. Olivier creates the perfect platform for Mbappe, who is as dangerous as possible as a striker coming into the box, and not as a tip.
Yesterday, the effectiveness of this pair went through the roof. Mbappe’s visits to the penalty area were frequent and sharp. He almost set a record for actions inside the box – 19. Only the Italian Luigi Riva had more in 1970. In the modern history of the World Cup, no one gave such indicators.
At the same time, it cannot be said that Giroud completely sacrificed himself to unlock the potential of a star partner. Rather, we observed a situation in which the opponent is lost – to react to Mbappe’s freedom (and play less tightly with Giroud), or, conversely, to concentrate on Giroud and give Kylian space. Uncertainty was ruining Australia. Giroud collected 1.67 xG, more than any of the teams that started (not including penalties).
Karim’s injury could help balance the attack. The owner of the “Golden Ball” is many times stronger than Giroud individually, but does not hold a fixed position, does not distract attention, but wanders around the entire front of the attack. Roughly speaking, Mbappe yearns for freedom. When two key attackers play so freely, the team is too dependent on their inspiration and mutual understanding. Sometimes there were top episodes, and sometimes there was no chemistry. The Giroud-Mbappé duo has clearer roles. The team wins.
The asymmetric scheme went into full swing after the release of Theo Hernandez
At the start, Deschamps released Luca Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard on the flanks, a pair from the 2018 squad. Both are not particularly actively involved in the attack. On the right flank, this was justified, since Ousmane Dembele is responsible for the width, and likes to remain isolated against opponents. But on the left, the flank was regularly liberated – a full-back was needed, capable of covering it completely.
Theo’s appearance in place of his brother changed the scheme of France. It seems that only after this forced move did it work to its full potential. On the right flank, Dembele was responsible for the width. On the left, variability reigned – either Mbappe in the initial stage or Rabiot making a dash, or Theo joining. Theo’s value is that with his release, situations where no one fills this zone have gone.
His activism was the key to more activism for Rabiot and Mbappe in other directions. Kylian could find himself in the role of a hidden striker more often, and Rabiot helped in midfield and participated in the promotion of the ball.
In practice, the asymmetry of the French scheme looked something like this: the right-back Pavard from the depth is involved in the promotion, the left Theo closes his edge, Mbappé is next to Giroud in the attack, Dembele is in a wide position on the right, Rabiot makes a dash to help Theo.
This dynamic, with a cautious right-back and sharp left-back, was a perfect match for their wing partners. Mbappe’s flank frees Theo and Rabiot for variability and activity, while Pavard, on the contrary, remains deeper so as not to prevent Dembele from getting his favorite isolations. France’s main emphasis was on the left, but Ousmane also got comfortable situations – he made 3 strokes out of 4 attempts and sharpened productively several times.
It was Theo who became the last piece of the puzzle, as he is effective and sharp in connecting to the attack. Without him, we would certainly have observed instability in this zone: sometimes Rabiot will have time to fill, sometimes not. With Theo, the activity became regular and unreadable for the opponent.
The rebuilt midfield is very versatile. Griezmann – tactical glue
The 2018 championship midfield was built on the complementarity of Pogba and Kante. Both miss the tournament. Now the basis of France in the center is Tchuameni and Rabiot. Griezmann has new features. The triangle acted very flexibly. Sometimes they gathered in one part of the field for combinations, and sometimes they were located so Griezmann turned out to be the deepest. Only Tchuameni had a more or less fixed position. Although when Rabiot descended to him to advance, they regularly changed sides of the field. Griezmann and Rabiot have dual roles.
Adrien is a central midfielder + hidden left winger. He participated in the advance but made dashes to the left, which either freed Theo or carried a direct threat.
Griezmann is the interpreter of space and the brains behind this team. He found a problem – and turned out to be a solution. The promotion is junk, which means that Antoine is a midfielder in the episode. The defenders dismantled both Giroud and Mbappe, which means that now he is an additional striker. Dembele led the left-back by shifting to the center and gave a chance to expose the flank – Griezmann opens there in the manner of a winger.
Deschamps has always prioritized player compatibility over difficult tactical systems. At this tournament, he will probably not be the only one doing this. France has already demonstrated an impressive working version. So far, only against the backdrop of Australia, so we can do without enthusiasm with an eye on the championship, but now we can admire how the team copes with injuries.