Having won all of their 12 games in all competitions since June 2021, France are entering the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 as one of the favourites to win the tournament outright, although that would be quite a challenge with the likes of the Netherlands, England, Sweden and Germany to compete with, all of whom are expected to go far in the competition.
France are drawn into Group D along with Belgium, Italy and Iceland. The team is full of stars that compete for some of the best European teams, and the coach Corinne Diacre has made sure to call up the best performing players while still trying to keep the balance in the squad and keep their chances high.
While the French Olympique Lyonnais have been the most successful club in European football, with seven Champions League titles, the international team are yet to win any big competition and will be looking to lift their first title this summer.
The manager, Diacre, who was appointed in 2017 has met a lot of controversy over the years, with her tactics and call-ups being constantly questioned and criticised. The same is valid for her EURO 2022 squad which reveals the absence of some players who have proven their qualities at club level over the last calendar year.
Players like Amandine Henry, Eugenie Le Sommer and Kheira Hamaroui are not present in the 23-player squad, although she will rely on many of their teammates from Lyon and PSG.
This tactical analysis in the form of a scout report examines France’s tactics and explains how they are likely to set up throughout the tournament.
Predicted Starting XI
The team are most likely to employ their favoured 4-3-3 formation throughout the tournament, although they might occasionally switch to 4-1-4-1 if they require a quick change of strategy. When it comes to the starting XI, it is expected that Pauline Peyraud-Magnin would be the main contender for the goalkeeping spot.
The Juventus player isn’t a regular starter for her club, but her displays whenever she has played have been impressive and made Diacre rely on her in France’s last few games, during which time she conceded just five goals in 11 games.
It is expected that Ève Périsset will be employed in the right-back position, where she would try to split her responsibilities between defence and attack.
The right centre-back position is most probably reserved for Griedge Mbock Bathy, despite the manager having quite a few options in central defence; she brings balance as she provides defensive security while being able to get the ball out of the defence when in possession.
The captain Wendie Renard is expected to start in the left centre-back position, from where she can dictate play and support ball progression.
The Lyon defender Selma Bacha is about to start at left-back where she will be the more active full-back in attack. Bacha usually strolls forward and often occupies the opposition half, where she contributes with crossing attempts but also occasionally cuts inside.
The midfield three is expected to consist of Kenza Dali, Sandie Toletti and Grace Geyoro, who all have quite a lot of experience both for club and country. Toletti will be providing defensive support as she is one of the most reliable players in terms of direct challenges. Dali is more of an attack-minded player and will be looking to advance the ball and threaten the goal directly and indirectly. Her dribbling makes her successful in ball retention. Geyoro, on the other side, will be used more for her passing abilities as she can orchestrate play and initiate attacking movement with her passes.
The right-wing will be occupied by Delphine Cascarino, who can successfully advance on the flank through her dribbling and supplied the box with a high number of crossing attempts. On the left, we would see the PSG player Sandy Baltimore perform a similar role.
The key payer, Marie-Antoinette Katoto, will be France’s main threat in front of goal. She had an excellent season with PSG, scoring 42 goals in all competitions.
Many of the players in Diacre’s team are interchangeable and could be seen outside of their usual positions throughout the tournament, depending on the coach’s strategy.
Looking at the team’s age profile, we can see that France’s squad has balance in terms of youth and experience. While Diacre has called up quite a few young talented players, she’s stuck to having a foundation of more experienced players.
The scatter points out the young age of most of France’s attackers, as two of the most regular starters up front, Katoto and Baltimore, are under 24 years old.
France are a possession-based team who constantly try to exploit the advanced areas and create chances. As the graph shows, the frequency of their attacking actions is high. They are successful in their offensive duels, which allows them to progress the ball efficiently. A high number of their passes are directed forward, which results in them producing an extremely high number of shots per 90.
The team try to build up from the back and rely heavily on delivering the ball to the box through crossing. While the wingers have the main responsibility for that, the full-backs also contribute, giving their fellow wide players more freedom to cut inside and provide an additional direct threat.
Due to their attacking nature and aim to control the game in the opposition half, they are often awarded attacking set-pieces which they can then try to take advantage of.
They struggle against teams that match their style, which affects their structure and build-up as they are more cautious defensively and drop deeper. They usually try to retain possession at the back which sometimes makes it easier for their opponents to block the passing lanes, resulting in France’s lower efficiency in possession.
France deploy a rather high defensive line against most teams but do drop it lower against more aggressive pressing teams. Due to their attacking style of play and aim to have more possession, they are rarely threatened defensively and most of the time, they control the game in the opposition half, which allows them to keep the ball away from their own goal.
That’s underlined by the low number of interceptions, clearances and defensive duels per 90. As the graphic shows, though, the team are successful in both their ground and aerial duels, which often is the reason for the low number of shots conceded.
They aim to recover the ball frequently and most of their efforts are focused on the advanced areas. That way, they not only manage to stop opposition attacks early on but also create even more chances in front of the goal.
Of course, their high positioning can make them more vulnerable, especially against pacey attackers who can sneak behind the defence. The French players also sometimes struggle under pressure. In cases when the opposition tries to overload the advanced areas and the defenders need to step out of position, it is difficult for their teammates to cover depth.
Diacre’s side prefer building up methodically and using their positioning to expose the opposition, rather than rely on counter-attacks. The team rely on a high pass frequency and aim to have more of the ball. They usually try to maintain a more advanced positioning and start their build-up-play by circulating the ball between the defenders. They most frequently spread out to the full-backs who can progress with it and then decide whether to bring it back centrally or play with width.
While the central defenders are often responsible for ball progression, Tolleti’s role is also important for the team as she supplies her teammate with forward passes. She can improve on her pass accuracy, though, as many times her attempts don’t reach their target, which can result in a loss of possession.
Once the ball is past her, Geyoro could contribute with her creative passing and use her high pass completion rate to retain possession as she often relies on lateral passing. Dali could also pick up the ball from the central line and progress it further, and she is more likely to go all the way to the goal and attempt shooting.
The coach has seven available attacking players. Apart from Katoto, Baltimore and Cascarino, who are expected to have the starting spots, there are Diani, Sarr, Matéo and Malard.
Diani could be a great replacement on the right as her dribbling allows her to go deep in the opposition half and take on defenders, while her frequent crossing attempts increase the team’s chances to score. She can also provide a direct threat which makes her a great contender for a starting spot should any of her teammates not meet the expectations.
Sarr is more left-sided and has a slightly different role; she doesn’t rely on crossing the ball, instead preferring to cut inside and create goalscoring chances with high shot frequency.
Matéo is another option for the right, while Malard seems to be the only player that could replace Katoto centrally. With a high shot frequency and shot accuracy, she is mainly focused centrally, where she tries to threaten the goal as frequently as possible.
It is difficult to compete with Katoto for a starting spot, though. As her average shot maps suggest, her movement results in her being into quality positions for scoring, which increases her efficiency immensely. Both her France shot map (left) and her PSG shot map (right) show her impact in the box and the effectiveness of her positioning.
France are far less secure when it comes to midfield — only five midfielders received a call-up. It is expected that Toletti, Geyoro and Dali will be entrusted with the starting spots.
Palis is another option for the central areas as it is more likely for her to play as a right-sided midfielder or a defensive midfielder, while the other option, Bilbault, is more versatile in terms of her position. Their styles of play have similarities, with them both focusing on their defensive responsibilities, but they do have some differences too.
Palis is highly involved in the ball recovery all over the pitch, although most of her efforts come in the team’s own half, where she actively supports the backline.
Bilbault contributes more with passing and despite her defensive midfield position, does move into a more advanced position past the central line.
That leaves the question: is there a right replacement for Dali, who has more attacking functions? The Everton player has an eye for a good pass and is constantly looking to advance the ball and support the actions in the final third.
Diacre’s options in defence are interchangeable as many of the players can play in different positions. While it is most likely that Bacha, Renard, Mbock Bathy and Périsset will be the first choices, the other players also have chances of being included in the starting XI.
Torrent is a right-back and contributes to ball progression actively, which doesn’t take from her defensive performance. Karchaoui, who is more likely to play at the LB, also supports the actions in possession but is more vulnerable defensively, which is why Bacha is the better option in that position.
Tounkara is a ball-playing defender who is responsible for ball retention and progression. Despite her CB position, she is rarely involved in direct challenges defensively. Her main strength is her pass accuracy; that’s why she focuses her efforts when the team have possession. Cissoko, on the other side, is much more defence oriented, and her success in defensive duels, as well as her ability to intercept the ball, make her a more reliable option off the ball.
A lot of the responsibility in the EURO 2022 will fall on the forward Katoto, as her impressive displays throughout the season have increased the expectations towards her. After being left out of the squad in 2019 earned the coach a lot of criticism, it is now expected that she will be the key player in the tournament for France.
As her player profile breaking down her domestic performances for the last calendar year underlines, she performs above average in most attacking metrics. Her presence in and around the box provides a direct threat to the goal, and her abilities on the ball often put the opposition in a difficult position.
Katoto’s positioning is crucial for her efficiency as her spatial awareness allows her to exploit the tiniest spaces in the box.
While her biggest strength is her attacking contribution, her pass completion rate is higher than the average for her position and shows that her teammates can rely on combining with her in the final third as she can provide quality balls.
As her profile suggests, she is also efficient defensively, in terms of winning her duels, both ground and aerial. She performs better than the average for her position in these indicators and also occasionally contributes to ball recovery.
France have a real chance to win their group and proceed further as they are currently the highest-ranked team in the world when compared to their opponents Italy, Belgium and Iceland.
However, further analysis shows that the road won’t be easy as there are multiple title contenders in the fray. Sweden and the Netherlands are the favourites in the competition as their star-studded squads will be motivated to show their full potential and win the European championship.
The hosts England shouldn’t be underestimated either, as their confidence will be boosted by their supporters and they will give everything they have to meet the expectations.
France have the chance to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament but they really need to play on their potential and minimise their mistakes in order to be allowed to dream of something bigger.