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France are earmarked as one of the tournament favourites in 2018. Hudl’s guest analyst from the English Football League breaks down their opening match - a narrow victory over Australia.

How did both teams set up initially?

France set up in a 4-3-3 with Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe flanking the central Antoine Griezmann.

When out of possession, the French switched to a 4-1-4-1 with the wingers dropping slightly deeper and Ngolo Kante patrolling the space between midfield and defence. Kante was also assigned the role of keeping Australian attacking midfielder Tom Rogic quiet.

Australia lined up with a fairly conservative 4-4-1-1. Andrew Nabbout was the lone striker supported by Rogic in an advanced midfield position.

Surprisingly Didier Deschamps started with the defensive minded fullbacks Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard over the more attack-minded Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe.

With no raiding fullbacks to deal with, the Socceroos back four sat deep to great effect. The French were restricted to only six attempts on goal in the entire match.

A statistical outline of the match.

Our Sportscode output window shows that statistically France dominated the match, creating more attacking chances to score, more shots on target, more free kicks, more crosses attempted, and had more possession of the ball.

France attempted 17 dribbles compared to Australia's 4, while completing 71 more forward passes than the Socceroos.

However, what the stats don’t tell you is that France had to work hard to create these chances as Australia were exceptionally well organised out of possession, particularly in the first half. 

Josh Risdon, Mark Milligan and Trent Sainsbury had 26 interceptions between them in the Socceroo defence - more than the entire French team combined.

In particular, Sainsbury's last-ditch challenge on Griezmann in the 29th minute prevented a certain goal.

They demonstrated impressive discipline to hold a compact shape and replicate the practice Bert Van Marwijk had drilled into them deny France time and space on the ball.

Facets of the game where France held a statistical advantage can be seen here on our Sportscode output window.

Did France get their tactics right?

In the defensive third, France’s passing amongst the back four was often very laboured and they failed to take advantage of Australia’s ‘over-covering’. 

A quicker switch of play, on occasion, would have left the Australia’s fullbacks 1v1 Vs Dembele and Griezmann – this would have given France ample opportunity to get crosses into the box and ultimately more chances on goal. 

Australia's defensive shape was solid in the 4-4-2, but they left themselves open in the wider areas.

Boasting a team littered with Premier League and European stars it’s understandable that onlookers would have been frustrated with a performance that lacked the usual verve associated with the great French teams.

Pogba was heavily involved in most of his team’s attacks but his constant reliance on the straight lofted pass to the on-running Mbappe and Griezmann became predictable. Sainsbury and Milligan in the heart of Australia’s defence coped well with this threat winning 12 aerial duels during the match.

Out of possession, France demonstrated no real desire to press Australia and win the ball back high up the pitch. 

On the few instances when the Australian centre backs were put under pressure playing out they looked nervous and suspect to mistakes. 

Could France have capitalised on this and made things more difficult for Australia? 

There was no desire from France to press high up the pitch. Instead they dropped to a midfield block.

Should Australia receive more credit for the way they played?

Despite their best efforts, Australia lacked firepower in attack. Aside for the penalty in the second half, they never threatened only from set-pieces.

However, the way in which they built play in the defensive and midfield third may have gone unnoticed by many. 

France did have no interest in pressing the ball whenever Australia played out, but regardless, some of the passes from centre backs Sainsbury and Milligan deserve recognition. 

On several occasions, Australia where able to break two of France’s lines with a single pass. 

If only Australia could have made more of this build-up, they would have no doubt created more attacking opportunities.

Milligan finds midfielder Rogic with a pass from central defence, breaking France’s second line in the process.

Key substitution 

The introduction of Olivier Giroud finally provided France with a big body up top, capable of mixing it up physically with the Australian defence.

The Chelsea striker took little time to make his mark. 

With his back towards goal, he was found by a rapidly advancing Pogba. Giroud took one touch before his second setup Pogba to score the winner.

Post-match review

Though France won, the style with which they went about it will cause concern for their fans. 

For all their talent and positional flexibility, the front three of Griezmann, Mbappe and Dembele rarely combined to threaten the Aussie defence. If Deschamps is to persist with this formation, Giroud must start.

Giroud has shown his ability to combine with a secondary striker -- Eden Hazard at Chelsea and Griezmann for France -- while bringing other wide attacking players into play. His linkup play with Pogba for France's second goal was a key example of the quality he brings to the side.

Against a physical Australian defence that was comfortable sitting deep, Deschamps needed Giroud's frame to at least challenge the physicality of Sainsbury and Milligan.

Deschamps and France missed a chance to get off to an explosive start in Russia. Rather than establish their credentials as favourites, France's tame start leaves a lot of room for improvement.