• March 20, 2023

France show they are Euro 2020 favourites with tactical masterclass, dominant midfield trio and some Mbappe magic

How some things change in football. Back at the 2014 World Cup when Germany knocked out France in the quarterfinals, Mats Hummels was the only goalscorer of the game. That night in Rio de Janeiro it was German Defender who broke the hearts of the French despite Les Bleus dominating the game and creating the best opportunities.

Seven years later in Munich, the German central defender met again, this time in the own goal, giving France the gift 1-0 victory this time in both countries Euro 2020 Opening on Tuesday.

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But even in football, some things stay the same. First off, this French team in 2021 looks a lot like the one that won the 2018 World Cup. And this performance against Germany was a very similar performance to her semi-final victory against Die Team at Euro 2016 in Marseille.

While the result this time, as in 2016 and 2018, was only 1-0 compared to 2-0 in Marseille, this French team is tactically and defensively so disciplined (kudos to Antoine Griezmann to practically end this game as a right-back), controls games with a dominant midfield and, as in 2018, has the ultimate X-factor in the striker Kylian Mbappe, who consistently tore the page of Joachim Löw on Tuesday evening.

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If we didn’t really know what to expect from this Germany before kick-off, we knew what France would deliver. They did exactly what it says on the tin. Sometimes they have suffered and don’t make a mistake, it’s a good German team, but they’re never broke. In fact, they never looked like they were going to break. The world champions are like a predator waiting for its prey, and as we’ve seen in recent years, the predator knows exactly when to attack.

“That was a strong performance,” said Didier Deschamps after the game. “We fought hard. We could have done better with the ball, in our setup, but it was a very solid performance.” Deschamps was delighted in the locker room afterwards and warmly congratulated his players on an impressive win that will make France an even bigger favorite to win this tournament.

It’s so much easier to perform like this when you’re in midfield like France. Much has been said, rightly, of France’s top three from Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Griezmann, which is undoubtedly a frightening proposition for any defense. But what about the trio of Paul PogbaN’Golo KanteAdrien Rabiot? There has never been a better midfield in this competition. They are so good at everything they do, complement each other so well, and everyone plays their part so perfectly.

Didier Deschamps got his tactics right, and thanks to German help, France controlled the start of the group stage. Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach – Pool / Getty Images

France also received a lot of help from Germany. Deschamps had hoped Low would play Joshua Kimmich on the right full-back and not in midfield, because that would make it easier for his players to control the game the way they did. The French couldn’t believe that the best midfielder in the world wasn’t playing as a midfielder for his country at the European Championships!

So the midfield belonged to France, and that’s where they won that game. Edge was everywhere again. Rabiot is so tactically smart and intelligent and precious under pressure. And then you have Pogba. This was a vintage pogba, 2018 pogba, or maybe even a better pogba. What an achievement!

“It’s such a strong collective victory. We are so focused and so efficient. We all work hard for each other. We are humble on the pitch and we suffer together,” he said Manchester United Star who complained to the referee after it appeared he was bitten in the back by the defender Antonio Rudiger at the end of the first half.

Pogba has rightly been called the man of the game, and not just because of his extraordinary goal participation. We have seen fantastic moments at this tournament so far – England midfield player Kalvin Phillips‘run forward Raheem Sterlinghis goal, Czech Republic‘s Patrik Schick scored a miracle goal from midfield against Scotland – and we have now seen the course of the Pogba tournament so far. An incredible moment of inspiration and genius with a half toe poke / half outside foot switch from right to left for Lucas Hernandez, whose subsequent flank was deflected by Hummels in his own network. It was part of a complete performance by Pogba, who made 12 ball restorations, won 13 duels, drew four fouls, was also deprived of an assist for an offside decision and later a “hockey assist” in front of the Benzema-ruled goal for offside.

The only goal that stood was such a big common goal because that was exactly what France wanted to achieve. Before the game, it was planned to insist on Kimmich’s side, as the Bayern Munich Midfielders are no longer used to playing there. Deschamps knew that there were opportunities there that could be used and that there were opportunities to start with the goal.

Meanwhile, Kimmich fought Mbappe the entire game. The Frenchman was in top form despite only having 35 touches, the lowest number of the 22 starters. If you thought the incident with Olivier Giroud would concern him, we saw tonight that the answer was clearly no. His threatening run behind Hummels was a major reason for the own goal; He later scored a fabulous goal that was not recognized for being offside and then was offside again, this time by a narrow margin before preparing Karim Benzema for a VAR-banned goal. That doesn’t even explain the wonderful ball he hit with Rabiot, which hit the post, or the fact that he could have taken a penalty on another occasion.

In 2016 and 2018 France started its tournaments very slowly, against Romania and Australia, respectively. This time they are already in command and are impressive but with a few gears left.

“In a game like this, tactical discipline is so important. We were so tactically strong tonight – we did great things,” said Rabiot. “We are happy. We were the last team to play and we had to send a message to the other teams. We had to show that we are world champions for a reason.”

Tonight this message was received loud and clear.

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