Juventus Napoli Serie A Tactical Analysis

Yesterday, France proved just how fine the margins between victory and defeat are as they edged past Uruguay with a 2-0 win.

Over the course of the game, the absence of Edinson Cavani eventually took its toll on Uruguay who missed his presence up top.

As for France, they benefited from great detail by Antoine Griezmann whose stuttered run up to a free kick gave Raphael Varane the space he needed to head France into the lead. As the game progressed more space opened up in midfield to the delight of Pogba who took full advantage in the build up to Griezmann’s goal.

Team News

Looking at the teams both teams without two key men but other than that, lined up as expected.

Uruguay saw Cristhian Stuani replace Cavani next to Luis Suarez and kept their narrow, hard to beat midfield. We’ll see how these to aspects of Uruguay’s lineup effected the game below. France on the other hand were missing midfielder, Blaise Matuidi through suspension. A player who has proved to be vital as he helps bring balance to the French midfield playing on the left. He was replaced by Corentin Tolisso and we’ll also take a look at how that change effected the game.

Uruguay’s Midfield Structure

As seen above, Uruguay’s 4-4-2 formation came with a narrow diamond shape in midfield. Something that had only seen them concede once in the World Cup before yesterday’s kick-off. With this they have been rightly credited as a very functional side as they play to their strengths and here’s how this worked in the first half against France.

As the ball is moved to France’s right hand side, to overload that side of the pitch Stuani drops into midfield and pushes left to close down Pavard’s passing lane to Pogba. Bentancur also drops in to create a Uruguayan diamond around Pogba meaning that even if he does receive the ball he will be outnumbered a Uruguay can win the ball back easily. Seeing this Pavard attempts a longer pass which doesn’t come off.
Here, the phase of play has moved forward and France are back on the ball. Now almost next to the touchline Uruguay show how drilled they are as Lucas Torreira drops out of the diamond so he doesn’t lose sight of Griezmann. This sees Laxalt engage Mbappé as he is closest whereas the three others forming the diamond rotate around to keep the shape compact.
Failing to get through the middle, Mbappé is forced to look wide yet again. However, the six Uruguayans shift over and press Pavard. Griezmann is also passed onto the centre back who marks him well. Seeing this, Pavard has to move backwards and pass to his only free option, Varane at centre back.

This was a theme that occurred throughout the first half as Uruguay looked to make the game a tight one. For this aspect of their game, Stuani was an adequate replacement for Cavani as he was disciplined and dropped back into shape when needed.

However, without Cavani’s high work rare, Uruguay paid the price, as I’ll touch on soon.

Staying with the Uruguayan midfield though, and they weren’t just impressive when in their own half, but high up the pitch also. The example used below is something that happened quite frequently during the match.

Here, Suarez and Stuani have taken wide-ish positions, covering the French full backs. With this, Bentancur, from the top of the original midfield diamond, presses through the middle pushing France back to Varane as he closes down their passing lanes effectively meaning they have to rebuild another attack.

No support for Suarez

As Uruguay’s approach was to hit France with counters this meant they suffered immensely without Cavani partnering Suarez. This was mostly because in the transition, there wasn’t much of a partnership between Suarez and Stuani.

This is because as Suarez dropped to get onto the ball and create, not only was he starved of options due to Uruguay’s lack of numbers up front but Stuani’s movement was not good enough either.

Here, as Suarez takes the ball he is forced to wait for his teammates to get forward. Something that not many can do due to their deep set up, however, Laxalt gives him an option. Mbappé, not the most defensive minded player allows him to run off the back of him. Stuani stays central and jogs towards the box.
Having to orchestrate from so deep Suarez can’t deliver the perfect ball and even though his pass finds Laxalt, he is under great pressure from Pavard.
Laxalt keeps the ball alive and sets it back to Bentancur but Uruguay are simply outnumbered by France in the box. Kanté and Varane press Bentancur closing the angle he has to cross as Stuani is doubled up on at the back post. This saw Uruguay simply unable to maintain good possession in the final third.

Even though Uruguay were outnumbered on most of their visits to the France box, the absence of Cavani proved to be vital. Compare Stuani’s movement here to Cavani’s in Alex’s piece and you’ll see how much of an effect the PSG man can have on this team. But let’s move on to France.

When Tolisso struggled for France

For most of this tournament, we’ve seen France vary between their favoured 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3 and that was no different yesterday despite the inclusion of Tolisso. In defence, he held his own as he slotted into the left midfield of a 4-4-2 with Mbappé dropping into right midfield. In possession, however, he’d tuck in as Mbappé returns upfield and Griezmann floats behind both strikers (as seen below). This had varied success over the course of the game.

Here, we can see France’s attacking shape of the 4-3-3 as Tolisso tucks into the midfield and Griezmann floats behind Mbappé and Giroud. In this frame, Tolisso is on the ball and knocks it into a marked Griezmann.
Griezmann finds Hernandez nicely on the wing but with the left back isolated, Martin Caceres shuts off the flank well, forcing Hernandez inside with no chance of crossing into Giroud.
After cutting back inside, Hernandez has to pass to Griezmann in what will become a congested area infront of the box. Under pressure from Torreira, Griezmann decides to try a flick towards Mbappé which is intercepted by the covering midfielder.

Here we see the downfall of missing Matuidi for France as they lack a general balance in attack. With Tolisso more likely to tuck in and drift infield rather than create overlaps, more often than not this leaves Hernandez with few options when on the ball.

However, with the left-footed Matuidi back from suspension after this game we should see more overlaps in the semi-final against Belgium, putting doubt into whichever defender is forced to cover that space.

When Tolisso shone for France

We did see a massive advantage of having Tolisso on the pitch, however, and that was similar to the Australia game. It gave Pogba space to exploit. As we all know, Paul Pogba can at times can be the best player on the pitch and that’s just what he was in the build-up to Griezmann’s goal.

Here, Pogba wins the ball of a Uruguay midfielder and having to chase the game, their midfield structure from the first half is nowhere to be seen. This leaves a massive gap for Pogba to run into.
As Pogba travels up the pitch Tolisso stays close as two Uruguay midfielders sprint in to close down Pogba on the ball. Having been tucked in rather than out wide like Matuidi may have been, this gives Tolisso the option to drop into the space highlighted above, where Pogba finds him.
Having identified the space well, Tolisso and Griezmann are now in acres of it and he just plays the easy ball to the Atletico man whose shot was fortunate to go in.

Here we see how the use of the 4-3-3 system can work wonders once in control of a game, as with the right midfielders you can find great pockets of space to exploit. However, this happened rarely at 0-0 so looking towards France’s semi-final it’ll probably be best that Matuidi returns to the side to give France what’ll be a much-needed balance in defence and attack.

Summary

Overall, when Uruguay were playing in the conditions that they wanted to play in, they were very efficient and were getting what they wanted from the game. However, without Cavani to support Suarez they had no real chance of sustaining attacks. For France, the performance wasn’t fully convincing but thanks to that stuttered run up from Griezmann and the space created by Tolisso and Pogba, they will be staying in Russia for a bit longer.