Lessons France Learned from Their Quar­ter Final Victory

Lessons France Learned from Their Quar­ter Final Victory

France put in a great per­for­mance to see off a spir­it­ed Uruguay side 2 – 0 in the quar­ter finals. Here are some key lessons that Les Blues will need to con­sid­er in the lead up to their semi-final match against Belgium.

Where are France most dangerous?

France start­ed as they have done all com­pe­ti­tion with a 4 – 2-3 – 1 for­ma­tion, with Griez­mann, Mbappe and Tolis­so play­ing behind Giroud up front. 

Inter­est­ing­ly Mbappe on the right wing spent the major­i­ty of his time high­er up the pitch than Giroud, which high­lights how key he is to France’s attack­ing play. 

Com­par­ing two play­ers of the same posi­tion, Mbappe had 13 drib­bles, com­pared to Tolis­so on the left wing who had just 3

Mbappe also com­plet­ed a match high 18 attack­ing duels, win­ning 13 of them.

Bel­gium will need to shut down the sup­ply of ball of the French right flank if they are to be suc­cess­ful in the semi-final.

France's attacking trident in their 4-2-3-1 formation were met with the challenge of Uruguay's back four and three defensive-minded midfielders.

Pog­ba thrives in a free role

Some­thing Jose Mour­in­ho hasn’t man­aged to nail down at Man­ches­ter Unit­ed is the best posi­tion to use Paul Pog­ba in.

In the two-man piv­ot of the 4 – 2-3 – 1 for­ma­tion, France played with Kante in a screen­ing role, while Pog­ba had a more free role in the mid­dle of the French midfield.

This role from Kante allowed Pog­ba to play more advanced up the pitch — Pog­ba had 73 touch­es of the ball, Kante had 66

Inter­est­ing­ly Pog­ba got into more duels in this more advanced role. 44 duels in total, com­pared to Kante who had 18.

Our Sports­code head to head out­put win­dow below shows Kante was again indus­tri­ous, win­ning the ball back 6 times for his team, com­pared to Pog­ba who won the ball back only twice, but com­plet­ed ten more attack­ing third entries and 24 more over­all actions in the game.

Player comparison: Kante did the leg work to free Pogba up offensively.

One way to frus­trate the French

Uruguay packed the mid­dle of the pitch with num­bers and France had to accept hav­ing the ball in wide areas.

With the pri­ma­ry avail­able option in this sit­u­a­tion to cross the ball into a con­gest­ed box full of Uruguayan bod­ies, Diego Godin and his defence were very com­fort­able in this situation.

After Uruguay changed to a flat 4 – 4-2 and start­ed to chase the game, space opened up cen­tral­ly. France had 4 cross­es in the first half and zero in the sec­ond half. 

Uruguay packed the central areas, forcing France wide.

France can be unset­tled by the press

Uruguay’s dia­mond shape in the first half allowed them to press with an incred­i­ble intensity. 

Uruguay had four of the five play­ers with the most ball recov­er­ies through­out the game. Tor­reira led the way with 12, while Godin and Ben­tan­cur put in a shift with 9 a piece.

Inter­est­ing­ly, Luis Suarez com­plet­ed more ball recov­er­ies than Kante, show­ing Uruguay’s con­sis­ten­cy in press­ing from the for­ward line as soon as pos­ses­sion was lost.

France were not allowed to play in cen­tral areas due to the set up by which Uruguay start­ed the game. 

Our Sports­code out­put win­dow shows that momen­tum changed at the 60 minute mark, right after Uruguay made the for­ma­tion change to push more bod­ies for­ward and chase the match.

Our Sportscode output window shows a big swing in momentum in France's favour around the 60 minute mark.

Whilst Uruguay were play­ing a dia­mond, France man­aged just one through pass lead­ing to a shot, Uruguay made 8 through pass­es in the same time. France had 5 shots in the sec­ond half and only 4 in the first half. 

With more room in the mid­field, the French mid­field­ers could play pass­es between the lines and opened up Uruguay on a num­ber of occasions.

This change of shape for Uruguay was obvi­ous­ly to try and win the game, but end­ed up los­ing them the game in hind­sight. Bel­gium will need to con­sid­er how they will lim­it France play­ing through the middle.

Uruguay's press in central areas gave Griezmann and the French attack some issues when executed correctly.
Uruguay are opened up by France in the lead up to the second goal.

France show an abil­i­ty to close out a match

Didi­er Deschamps react­ed well to Uruguay’s for­ma­tion change, keep­ing the same shape for his team, but mov­ing Kante for­ward into Tolisso’s left-sided posi­tion and adding N’Zonzi shore up the mid­dle of the park.

Uruguay only had 2 counter attacks, both com­ing in the first half of the game when France were had less of a defen­sive pres­ence in midfield.

In the sec­ond half, despite Uruguay chas­ing the match, they had zero counter attacks.

France maintain the same formation, but add N'Zonzi to compliment Kante's ball winning ability.
As the game progressed Uruguay actually had fewer shots, thanks to a stronger French defensive display in the second half.

Post-match review

After a slow start to the tour­na­ment, France are start­ing to hit form at the busi­ness end of the tournament.

France will feel con­fi­dent offen­sive­ly after see­ing off one of the hard­est work­ing defen­sive press­ing teams. Should Bel­gium give France too much of the ball and let France play through the mid­dle, they could be in trouble.

Should France play wide, Kylian Mbappe is option num­ber one and Belgium’s full­backs will need to min­imise the effect he can have on the game as much as possible.

With Cavani absent, the French defence weren’t ful­ly test­ed, so it will be inter­est­ing to see how they fare against a Bel­gium side lit­tered with match win­ners across the park. Play­ers like Lukaku, Haz­ard and De Bruyne bring unique chal­lenges and a step up in qual­i­ty from the Uruguayan for­ward line.

Man­ag­er Deschamps showed his 4 – 2-3 – 1 has flex­i­bil­i­ty when mov­ing Kante to the left hand side and intro­duc­ing anoth­er hold­ing mid­field­er with­out los­ing any cohe­sive­ness in his side.

France will need anoth­er strong defen­sive per­for­mance in the semi-final. Bel­gium have con­ced­ed three times in the past two match­es, so oppor­tu­ni­ties should be there to score, suc­cess is like­ly going to come down to if they can keep the Bel­gian for­wards quiet.

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