As they line up for their second World Cup final in a row, Didier Deschamps’ France are arguably stronger than they were 4 years ago. Mbappe’s closer to his prime, Griezmann’s having one of his best tournaments and they have world class talent all over the field. So, let’s have a look at how one of the favourites has made it back to the big time.
The footballing World was sent into shock when Craig Goodwin lashed in from the back post to give Australia the lead on the opening day just 9 minutes in. Pavard at right back was dragged inside leaving Goodwin plenty of freedom with all the time in the world. It can be argued that France’s right back is their greatest weakness with makeshift right back Jules Kounde filling in since. France went to dominate the Australians recording 60% possession but hardly having to push on shown by the centre backs combining for the highest passing link up with 42 passes in the 90. After France netted their 4th their possession was around 70% before they took their foot off the gas.
Deploying the same 4-2-3-1 for the Denmark game, France dropped a subpar performance and relied on their star boy Kylian Mbappe. A brace from their number 10, including an 86th minute winner fired France into the next round. The passing link used most in this game was Theo Hernandez and Kylian Mbappe, demonstrating how Deschamps utilises the speed of Hernandez as an overlapping wing back, allowing Mbappe to cut in and threaten. Possession was fairly even for this game but with 20 shots to 9 and an xG of 2.81 to 0.79, France showed their ability to force the Danes wide and limit the wing backs influence. A brace of dominant performances meant Deschamps could rotate heavily for the Tunisia group game. Does Deschamps regret that? He possibly would have been one win away from a perfect tournament had he gone full strength.
Topping Group D on goal difference meant France would go on to face a Poland side led by Robert Lewandowski in the round of 16. The Barcelona man is still arguably the greatest striker in the world and he would get his goal in this game. However, it was in the 99th minute when his country was 3-0 down and bowing out. Again, France weren’t very dominant, but a stunning Mbappe brace meant they coasted through. It was the starlet link down the left that combined for 7 shots, with Hernandez’s pace overrunning Villa’s Matty Cash. With 4 counter attacks, France demonstrated their ability to tighten up and play ‘knockout football’ before using their pace to their advantage.
Then came the big one, France v England as two of the pre-tournament favourites faced off. England dominated the game, but with Harry Kane’s penalty their only goal, France were yet again able to force their opponents away from goal to a non-threatening position. They restricted England to passes which didn’t get them in dangerous positions, as shown below:
Backward Passes: (FRA) 73 v (ENG) 86
Lateral Passes: (FRA) 119 v (ENG) 203
Progressive Passes: (FRA) 66 v (ENG) 49
It was a stunning header from Olivier Giroud to see France through to the semis where they faced Morocco, the story of the tournament. Morocco defied all expectations to reach this stage and France were expected to easily fly past them, although Portugal, Spain and Belgium all expected to do similar and failed. France took the lead early on through Theo Hernandez who should now finally earn some plaudits for his tournament. After that, France were dominated, Morocco’s midfield 5 overrunning the French with 61% possession and over 200 more completed passes. Antoine Griezmann was immense in this game but had to fill in defensively to support the midfield. Despite their performance, this game showed France’s resilience and they will be confident of back to back world cup wins.
18+ please gamble responsibly. All odds displayed correct at the time of publishing.