World Cup 2018. Thus, it is time to take a look at the chances. I will seek the answers to this question “how can Croatia beat France? “.
Well, it is a hard question to answer, because France is the major candidate to win the tournament.
Apparently, France might win eight or nine times out of ten against this Croatian team. So, Modric and co. will pray for the case that they can be the World Champions.
What is up for Croatia? – or the mental side.
Perhaps for those considering this match a done deal, France will be the winner of the World Cup 2018. If it just a regular match, I will think the same. However, this is not as easy as it looks like. This is the final, therefore it always comes with an extraordinary pressure to win, which can rule the whole match. It can affect the players and cause a goalkeeping error or bad ball control. Something that in other circumstances may never happen.
This French team has a bad memory of finals. At Euro 2016, they lost against Portugal, which will be fresh wound for those who played in that match.
On the other hand, Croatia has nothing to lose. This is a gift for them. Reaching the final with two penalty shootouts and beating England from a losing position is a fantastic result and a team building experiences. Therefore, I expect Croatia to play freely without any fear or pressure.
One additional element can be highly important, in spite of Croatia, France does not have a standout leader among their ranks.
What can help Croatia other than mental solitude?
France using a 4-3-3 structure in an asymmetric style or we can call it a 4-2-3-1, with Pogba and Kante staying Deep, while Matuidi slightly higher as more of a box-to-box roamer. In front of them, Griezmann and Mbappe drop deeper to help to connect the lines and upfront Giroud.
This asymmetric style appears in deeper areas. While Hernandez running up and down the left, Pavard stays deep and acting as a supporting role in attacks.
Didier Deschamps commits his team to a deep position for two reasons, to stay compact and to utilise the speed of the front three, especially Mbappe.
Otherwise, these two attributes are important in modern football. Defending in a compact shape and quickly transitioning from defence to attack. Besides France, Belgium and Uruguay are also committed to this manner.
Therefore, one of the biggest step for Croatia to beat France is to cut off the French tool of the counter-attacks. Usually, Croatia using four-five players for preventing the counter-attacks.
They can rely on that, but it must be a highly functioned system. Otherwise, they will quickly lose the final. Another option is to create a mid-low block, where the available space is limited for Mbappe. In the past, they showed some struggles against these type of opponents such as Uruguay and Australia.
With this style of direct play, Croatia can threaten Lloris’ goal.
The images from the analysis of Denmark vs Croatia. Huge thanks to Max Bergmann.
Weaknesses of the French defence
Truth to be told, they do not have many weaknesses due to the compact and well-functioned defence they have.
Deschamps like to defending in a deep 4-3-3, which is hard to break. If that will not be enough, they have one of the best centre-back duos in the World Cup in Umtiti and Varane. Raphael Varane is the best now, he showed outstanding performances throughout the tournament.
However, Dalic’s side showed quite dangerous play in the penalty box. They usually perform lots of crosses towards the target man, Mandzukic. He will have a harder job against Umtiti and Varane, but due to a high number of crosses, there definitely will be some opportunities to score. If Croatia wants to win they must take advantage of these really few scoring chances.
Otherwise, the biggest weak points of the French team are the two fullbacks, Hernandez and Pavard. Pavard had some errors which have cost goals for France.
If Croatia are able to counter-attack, while Hernandez being in higher areas and using the space in the right they will cause some uncomfortable situations for France. By the way, this has to be the aim for Croatia, pushing France out of their comfort zone. With the direct play that Modric and his teammates able to perform and the quick side changes, they can surprise Deschamps’ man.
And lastly, one of the major threat that Croatia can expose – besides the combinative play – is their shooting ability, which is obvious when you have Rakitic and Modric on board. Don’t forget France already have conceded a goal from distance by Angel Di Maria.
France have shown some vulnerability against high pressing, which is unfortunately the weakness of this Croatian team. But if they can improve in this phase, they can cause some trouble for Lloris’ goal just as Belgium did.
Due to the fact that Croatia had extra time in all of their knockout games, we can expect to have extra time in the final, which can favour Croatia. Otherwise, in extra time, anything can happen, therefore if they can reach extra time they will have good chances to win the World Cup, especially with a penalty shootout.
I predict an exciting game in spite of the common beliefs that expect an easy French win. Croatia is a strong team with a powerful mentality that can help in difficult situations. They have to play with this attitude in order to make uncomfortable circumstances for France, which might cause unsure mindset for Deschamps’ side.