France is probably one of the favorite for this World Cup, even more after their final during Euro 2016. With probably the best team since the 2006 World Cup (where they lost in final too) their chances are real with a mix of youth and experience. However there are some negative points about this team that often makes us doubt their real chances of reaching the last stages.
This French generation is full of talented players, and maybe one the best squad for this competition. The group of players are quite experienced, even if there are a lot young players. Here is the list of 23 selected players:
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola, Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda.
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez, Presnel Kimpembe, Benjamin Mendy, Benjamin Pavard, Adil Rami, Djibril Sidibé, Samuel Umtiti, Raphaël Varane
Midfielders: N’Golo Kanté, Blaise Matuidi, Steven Nzonzi, Paul Pogba, Corentin Tolisso
Forwards: Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappe, Florian Thauvin.
— Equipe de France (@equipedefrance) May 17, 2018
Here there is a thing to know about Didier Deschamps method to select players: it’s more about player mentality than sporting decisions. He doesn’t select Karim Benzema anymore since the sex tape case – more than 3 years ago – while a lot of voices in France would like his return.
His choices are very focused on how they can affect the squad in term of collectif. Recently he decided to not select Adrien Rabiot, however called in a lot of World Cup 2018 pre-games. He preferred to choose Nzonzi who is undoubtedly a better choice when you see the different players in the midfield, the Sevilla player can play in more situations than the PSG midfielder.
The question is why he chose to put Rabiot in the team for a such long time and finally replace him by a player who played only few minutes in the national team ?
These choices are quite logical when you want to build a good collective team. Something very important in France since the Knysna case. However, without Benzema and Ribery, The Blues do without two experienced players.
Tactics and lineups
Though Didier Deschamps is not the best tactician, he and his staff had the intelligence to build their tactics only on two main lineups: 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3/diamond 4-4-2. Players can appropriate them easily and quickly, something even more important with the few number of games in the national teams schedule.
These two schemes can be used in very different ways, but the French national team just choose one or the other according to available players and not that much for tactical reason.
In 4-2-3-1 the team plays regularly with Kante-Pogba as double-pivot with Griezmann behind Giroud in attack. With Mbappe two very good seasons, the right wing seems to be lock while the left wing is more open. While Griezmann is more a second striker,turning around Giroud, than a real number 10, it’s usually a “playmaker” that take the left wing, like Lemar or Payet (before being injured).
In 4-3-3/4-4-2 things are not quite different. Tolisso or Matuidi come in the midfield while Lemar usually goes in front of the midfield, with Griezmann always around Giroud
In defense things are the same whatever the tactic in place.
However, when we take a look at the bench, there are a lot of players that could take position in the rotation. Players like Dembele, Fekir, Kimpembe or Nzonzi could be aligned in specific situations. There are a lot of hope on these substitute, moreover since the last Euro where none of the substitute had scored or made assists.
Strengths and weaknesses
On paper this team is really strong and quite balanced in term of profiles. Its principal strength is probably its outstanding individuals like Griezmann or Pogba. Almost each players is in the starting-eleven in his club, even players on the bench.
While it’s quite sufficient against mid-team, there are still important problems in this team.
Firstly, there is no game plan and so players relies on their skills and their cohesion. This lack of tactic is often felt against regrouped teams or when the starting-eleven is not the usual one.
The other fault is the lack of “winning spirit” in some situations. The squad is composed of lot of young players already “stars” and the lack of real experienced players and a real leader is something that can be decisive, especially in knockout stages.
Players to watch
With Mbappe, Lemar or Dembele, there a lot of “already stars” young players in this team. Moreover Didier Deschamps doesn’t hesitate to give them a lot of time on the field. Surrounded by players like Griezmann, Pogba or Kante, probably the 3 key players, it would be very interesting to see how all these elements could work together in this World Cup that is the first one for a lot of players in this team.
Goals and opponents
After a defeat in Euro final against Portugal, France team clearly set the goal to goes at least in quarter finals. The qualifying round seems to be within their reach with Denmark, Australia and Peru and so they will probably finish first of their group.
Things will probably be harder in the knockout phases, with a likely showdown against Croatia or Argentina.