“France’s ultimate team player”: Why Grace Geyoro has been a shining light for Les Bleues at Euro 2022 – scout report
As we approach the conclusion of the Euro 2022 tournament, there can be no doubt that it has been a major success on the field, with plenty of Europe’s best players getting opportunities to shine in front of record-breaking crowds. When it comes to stories that have emerged from the tournament, the progress of France into the semi-finals for the first time in six major tournaments was perhaps a big surprise to many, given their poor record in knockout rounds and reports before the tournament of disagreements between manager Corinne Diacre and her players.
However, whether those rumours were true or not, there is no doubting that plenty of the French squad have stepped up this summer and made their progression into the last four possible. One player who has been particularly important is Grace Geyoro, who is not necessarily the face of the team but has become someone that France simply can’t live without, and this tactical analysis will look in closer detail at why that is the case. The scout report will look at what she brings to Les Bleues’ attacking and defensive tactics and break down why her inclusion in the starting eleven has helped to make them one of the tournament’s most formidable opponents.
France’s preferred formation under Diacre has been a simple 4-3-3, offering them balance around the pitch and the ability to adapt to different situations. Grace Geyoro has mostly played as one of the two ‘eights’ within that setup, meaning that she has the freedom to link up with different players, and her awareness around the pitch has needed to be particularly strong in order for that to happen.
The main thing that Geyoro brings to the team is an ability to combine with others and keep the ball moving, and what makes her so good at this is her calmness in possession. With France keeping the ball on the ground during transitions, the central three need to be good with the ball at their feet and cannot afford mistakes with their passes, because the long distances that the ball covers between individual players mean that there are plenty of chances for an interception.
However, as this situation shows, France have generally been good at this, breaking through opposing lines and playing at a good tempo. Geyoro is in the middle of the pitch and has received the ball from new Chelsea Women defender Ève Périsset before sending it towards Lyon Féminin winger Delphine Cascarino, and the composure in her pass is clear. Cascarino did have time and space to control the pass, due to the Netherlands’ narrow defensive line, so a mistake would not have been too damaging on this occasion. However, it is rare that Geyoro makes an erroneous pass, with a 91% average accuracy across their four matches showing her individual quality on the ball. Therefore, it is clear that France are a better team when she is on the field.
Geyoro’s ability to pass around the pitch is not her only key quality though, and she is just as capable of getting into dangerous areas herself too. In this case, she is inside Iceland’s goal area and has teammates in the middle and on the edge of the box, both of which she could move the ball to. However, her awareness comes into play once more as she sees that there is enough of a gap for her to shoot at the goal, and her self-belief is clear as that is what she opts to do. Whilst her effort was thwarted by Bayern Munich Frauen defender Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir, the fact that she spotted the opportunity again demonstrates her awareness and ability to make key decisions based on what is going on around her.
That awareness in the goal area is evident here too, but this time she is being reactive and making her decision based on what Italy do, ensuring that she can get into the position that would enable her to help the rest of her team in the best way possible. At this point, she is being marked by Manuela Giugliano, but the Roma Femminile midfielder doesn’t stay with Geyoro and instead moves to protect her goal, as the red arrow shows.
This provides Geyoro with a good chance of scoring if the ball comes her way and she subsequently holds her position, putting her in the right place to turn in the rebound after Kadidiatou Diani’s cross is poorly cleared by Italy captain Sara Gama. Therefore, again, her awareness has helped her to get into the right position and France to open the scoring in what was in the end a comfortable victory.
Movement around the pitch
However, whilst plenty of players can claim to have a good awareness during matches, what makes some stand out is their ability to act on what they see, and Grace Geyoro is one of those who move into areas where she can help her team. This is another reason that France have looked much stronger and in control when she has been on the pitch.
In the previous image, Geyoro was inside the box and reacting to what the Italian defenders were doing, but this time, in a similar position, she is the one moving first, having spotted the space behind the Dutch defence. As a result, Lyon’s Griedge Mbock Bathy has a way of sending the ball into the area behind their opponents and giving her team a higher chance of scoring, whilst it will be harder for the Netherlands to clear their lines as they will be on the back foot.
What is particularly clever here is that Geyoro works with captain Wendie Renard, in the white circle, to open up the spaces, with each running in different directions. This forces the Dutch defenders to spread out and not narrow up, taking them out of their comfort zone, and the fact that Geyoro and Renard made the first move meant that they could create spaces for themselves before the Netherlands could react. As a result, Renard was able to win the first ball and Geyoro was able to shoot at goal from her headed pass, and only Netherlands defender Stefanie van der Gragt putting her body in the way prevented the ball from going into the net.
Therefore, whilst Geyoro’s awareness is once again central to this coming about, it is her movement and ability to act on her findings that create the goalscoring opportunity.
Her ability to run into spaces is just as important when the game is more open, with her looking to capitalise on Italy coming high up the pitch here and giving her teammates a passing option behind their opponents. France have different ways of playing in transitions because they have been known to make long, direct passes from defence to attack or to go through a third player in the middle first, limiting the risk of a mistake being made. In this case, they opt for the latter, with Geyoro’s PSG Féminine teammate Marie-Antoinette Katoto receiving the first pass and then playing into the midfielder with her first touch pass, taking Italy out of the game and allowing Geyoro to beat AC Milan Femminile goalkeeper Laura Giuliani and score her second and France’s fourth.
Having the forwards drop back in this way has not been an uncommon feature of France’s tactics during the tournament, and it is something that fans of Barcelona Femení will be very familiar with, given the success that they had with it when their now-former striker Jennifer Hermoso was with them (she departed for Mexican side Pachuca Femenil earlier this summer). Alexia Putellas and Aitana Bonmatí would be tasked with moving behind her in the same way as Geyoro is doing here, and it has been interesting to see France using the same ideas in order to create problems for their opponents.
Given Geyoro’s tendency to move around the pitch at speed and look to affect the game in the right way, this tactic has suited her capabilities and is another reason that she has been so important for Les Bleues this summer.
However, whilst we have looked at examples of Geyoro’s threat when going forwards and admired her quality, the simple fact is that playing this way is not easy to get right because a lot of it comes down to basic things being done well, such as the timing of her runs. Here, she is in a deeper position, but the fact that Belgium have stretched out their defensive line means that she is now the only player realistically capable of receiving Clara Matéo’s pass and keeping France in possession.
Nevertheless, rather than instantly moving forwards, what Geyoro does well here is that she holds back and waits for Matéo to release the ball, before then accelerating towards it and using that speed to connect with the ball with added power. Had she moved forwards and then controlled the pass whilst stationary, the likelihood is that she would have needed to take at least two touches and wouldn’t have had the same power on the ball, which is why her timing here was so key. Whilst Belgium managed to block her effort here, this again shows how Geyoro’s intelligent movement has been a key ingredient in France’s attacking threat during the tournament.
Whilst her offensive qualities have been clear to see, Grace Geyoro has been equally as important when her team have not had the ball, working just as hard and giving her opponents little time to make decisions and cause France problems.
It has been mentioned that a lot of what Geyoro does well comes down to her ability to do the little things well, and that is clear in this situation too. Here, Belgium have won possession and are looking to move the ball into the French half of the pitch, but Geyoro notices this and reacts by closing Hoffenheim Frauen star Tine De Caigny down as she looks to control the pass from PSV Vrouwen’s Julie Biesmans, making the interception and regaining the ball for her team.
Her desire to never be out of possession for long periods of time is one of the reasons that France have been so dominant in their four matches so far, having averaged 56.97% possession per game, so they have been in control even when it has appeared that they were struggling.
When looking at why they have made it to the last four and put out the holders in the last round, this ability of not just Geyoro but the whole team to constantly win the ball back early and disrupt opposing play has to come into consideration.
In this situation, France are back in their own third and have just defended an Italian corner. Once the initial cross was cleared, Geyoro was the one who reacted by coming out and closing down Barbara Bonansea, preventing the Juventus Femminile forward from sending the ball into the box and trying to create another shot on goal. As a result, Bonansea’s focus is forced towards trying to keep possession, but Geyoro’s strength in this 1-v-1 duel means that this didn’t happen for too long.
Whilst it is true that Milena Bertolini’s side didn’t play well in this match, this particular situation should not be attributed to their poor play and, instead, Geyoro should be praised for her ability to read the game, get out early and regain the ball, with her pass to fellow midfielder Sandie Toletti allowing France to launch their own attack and put their opponents back under pressure.
Geyoro has succeeded in 75% of her individual defensive duels during the tournament, so this shows just how important she is in defensive situations, making her very much an all-rounder and, in the words of other writers and analysts, “France’s ultimate team player.”
In conclusion, this analysis has looked in detail at France midfielder Grace Geyoro, showing why she has been such a vital player for Les Bleues during Euro 2022. The scout report has shown what she brings to the team tactically, as well as the qualities that have made her a player France simply can’t afford to be without. If Corinne Diacre’s side manage to book a meeting with hosts England at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon, then they will need Geyoro to exert her influence early in the game, and any chance that the semi-final debutants have of overcoming the eight-time European champions will depend on whether the PSG captain can put in as strong a shift in the middle of the park as she has done all tournament.