France finally won – for the first time since the Euro kick-off match. But the problems remained
“We are not aggressive enough, we are not working hard enough. You have to try harder, sweat and play with desire, ”said Paul Pogba after a draw with Bosnia and Herzegovina. If Pogba says that players should sweat more on the pitch, then the team is really in trouble.
The previous victory of the French national team happened on June 15 – in the first round of the European Championship. It’s funny that they managed to beat star Germany, and then there were draws with Hungary, Portugal, Switzerland, Bosnia and Ukraine. Four out of these five games, the French are required to win simply by status, not to mention superiority in individual skill. Thus, the two victories were separated by almost three months.
They managed to defeat Finland thanks to Griezmann’s double , who caught up with Platini in goals (both had 41 goals). By the way, the first goal is just fine, with an excellent pass from Benzema and a witty handling by Griezmann. But one victory in five matches is still not enough.
First, a little clarification. To criticize only because of the latest results, outside the context of the matches themselves, is stupidity. Of course, France was unlucky, the team deserved to score a few more goals. To be convincing, a couple of numbers.
During five matches without a victory, the French struck 77 blows and allowed 41 hits on their own. The penalty difference is also impressive: 39-20. The ratio of clear scoring chances according to Opta is also in favor of France: 15-9. Here, by the way, the advantage is no longer so powerful, and we can say that the dominance of the team over the rivals lacks specificity in the form of obvious moments. But it doesn’t matter: such a moment advantage should be enough for at least a couple of victories.
The goals conceded are also a topic for discussion. For example , Dzeko distinguished himself after cutting off Lemar in his half of the field, and Ukraine’s goal happened right after the moment when Martial was obliged to score . Shaparenko scored in a counterattack 12 seconds after that. These episodes are transitional moments that take the team by surprise. You can’t talk about a game crisis because of such goals. By the way, in the match with Bosnia, the French spent the half in the minority, and a draw in this situation is definitely not a failure.
Therefore – no, you can’t just criticize the team for the results, dismissing the unfortunate set of circumstances, it is too obvious. But the fact is that the reason for criticism is not exactly the results, or rather, not so much they, but deeper problems that would have to be said regardless of whether the world champions managed to beat Bosnia.
If we recall the previous tournaments, Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018, France, in principle, did not smash rivals and did not have an overwhelming superiority. Not to mention the spectacular football. No, it was a control machine that relied on the individual skill of Mbappe and Griezmann in attack, with which Giroud had masterfully created space , and defended itself by both quality and quantity. And she knew how to defend herself.
At the victorious world championship, the French for the entire tournament were inferior in the score by only seven minutes (in the match with Argentina). At home Euro, where the team took second place, there was one strong-willed victory: over Northern Ireland, which scored in the second minute and held the advantage for almost an hour, but still did not keep it. For another 11 minutes, France lost in the final to the Portuguese after Eder’s goal in overtime. In total, only three times in 14 matches (74 minutes in total) they needed to attack, and the rest of the time they could play by score.
Didier Deschamps created a team that was annoying with a boring style, but could score out of nothing and was the best at defending a minimum advantage. Such football did not emphasize the winning qualities of the attacking stars (they simply did not often find themselves outside the goal), but in fact required many qualities from the players.
First of all, concentration and composure. Concentration at one’s own gates, so as not to make mistakes, composure – at strangers, in order to punish for them. It is impossible to win the world championship and reach the Euro final, conceding 10 goals in 14 matches, if you bring moments and give gifts to your opponents.
And if you look at the last matches from this point of view, the team has changed. And the result reflects these changes. The shotgun of Lemar, which was inaccurately given to the central defender, is childish, unacceptable for world champions. Tackle Kunde, for which he was removed – stupid and redundant, he did not need to save, he was not the last defender, everything happened far from the gate. Just in a working moment on the edge for some reason I went into the tackle with a raised straight leg. Both are a lack of discipline.
Discipline problems are always difficult to break down into causal relationships. Rather, it is possible, but not one – there are always a lot of them. For example, Matuidi left , who in later years was important for ensuring the team balance. He was not fast, but he was always where he needed to be. Rabiot is different, he chooses a position worse, this affects the whole team, and this is important, because the French national team has enough players who need to be insured.
Another important change – and a lot has been said about it – is the return of Benzema. At first glance, he categorically strengthened the national team. He scored four goals in the Euro, participates in every attack (in the victorious match with Finland, he has a goal and a pre-goal pass). Do not compare with the nondescript Fat (0 goals in the victorious world championship). But the problem is that Benzema’s brightness did not become a natural addition to this disciplined team, but partly destroyed the balance in it.
Benzema is explosive, creative and unpredictable, and unpredictable for teammates. While Giroud stuck his discipline between the center-backs, creating depth of attack (and room for Mbappe’s jerks), Benzema wanders freely around the field in search of an opportunity to sharpen. He, Mbappe (who now gets more freedom than three years ago), Pogba, who also needs to be given freedom when connecting to the attack, Griezmann, who is great in the national team – there are too many artists in the team. And at the same time, Kante is not playing .
Kante in the best shape is able to hedge half the field vertically. But now he is not, and at Euro he did not always cope with the volume of work, not only running, but also making decisions. The team, which was divided into an attack group and a defense group, substitutes the defensive player.
From such trifles, the final picture is formed: France at Euro 2020 allowed its rivals more than a few years ago. And continues to allow now. Peak France under Deschamps, boring and monotonous, pressed on to victory even those matches in which it did not outperform its rivals. And now even those who are individually stronger by an order of magnitude do not win. As with Switzerland, where France simply quit playing with the score 3: 1 – and was no longer able to turn on.
There is another problem, but it cannot be judged by what is happening on the field: the unity of the team. Naturally, conflicts cannot be judged by hearsay, but Pogba is not the only one complaining about team spirit. Lloris, the captain of the team, said before the match with Finland that the individual level of the players of the national team had increased, but the dedication was less. A hint of someone in particular? Even if not, this is a revealing point.
Just as an indicative moment was the conflict between Mbappe and Giroud at the beginning of the Euro, which hit the press. A conflict that may have started out of a misunderstanding or incorrect wording by Giroud, but did not stop even after Olivier apologized (to Mbappé, although his words were referring to other players). Mbappe needed to hold a press conference because of this episode in order to speak out: Deschamps did not give, but after the match with Germany Mbappe still expressed his dissatisfaction.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that the conflicts began after Benzema returned. Perhaps the national team really began to break up into groups, as L’Équipe insiders believe. In any case, even public statements – usually politically correct and formal ones – show how the situation has changed. This is what Lloris said after the World Cup final: “Deschamps changed our game and did everything right. In terms of concentration, we did a very good job. “
After the victory, the captain emphasized high concentration. After a series without victories, it says that the individual level of the players has grown, but there is not enough dedication. The message is clear. One could say that Lloris is biased, but it is not a matter of his personal position. And as a result. Which, of course, depends on the context and the coincidence of circumstances, but comes down only to them. Especially when it comes to such a strong team.