Cau­tious French Tac­tics Enough to Beat a Gal­lant Soc­ceroos Side

Cau­tious French Tac­tics Enough to Beat a Gal­lant Soc­ceroos Side

🇫🇷Read in French

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.