A dream attack, a conquering state of mind, a coach always so pragmatic and inspired, everything was there for the France team to conquer Euro 2020. All this collapsed in the round of 16 against the Swiss. Surprising? Not that much in view of the turn of events since the start of the competition.
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The mistakes of Didier Deschamps
Many believe the national coach is primarily responsible for the failure. The constitution of his list did not suffer from dispute, on the contrary, with the general enthusiasm aroused by the return of Karim Benzema. Rather, it was what he did with it that quickly qualified the initial enthusiasm. By deciding to bet everything on his attacking trio, which we were supposedly envied by the whole world, DD was lost in his choices. 4-4-2 rhombus, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 asymmetric, 3-5-2 and finally 4-4-2 flat, it starts to do a lot for 4 meetings and it testifies to the difficulty finding a scheme that works, when he had been able to install the winning system from the second meeting of the 2018 World Cup.
Another grievance concerns the choice of men. Deschamps however had the backbone, with 8 irremovable holders (Lloris, Varane, Kimpembe, Pogba, Kanté, Mbappé, Griezmann, Benzema). 9 if Lucas Hernandez had been spared by his knee. 10 if Pavard had posted a level worthy of the 2018 World Cup. In reality, the only real question was about the identity of the third midfielder, or the fourth striker depending on the chosen scheme. And the question never found a proper answer, despite a successful first match against Germany with Rabiot. The failed meeting against Hungary reshuffled the cards, pushing Deschamps to change his system against Portugal then Switzerland, chaining the bad choices (Tolisso right midfielder, defense at 5 and tenure of Lenglet). Not helped by the cascade of injuries (Dembélé, L. Hernandez, Digne in particular), the coach was not inspired in his team compositions.
A deceptive first match, a badly judged second match?
Crazy intensity, iron defense, a promising attack. The inaugural match won 1-0 against Germany was as reassuring as it hurt the Blues. Difficult physically since then they never knew how to find the intensity observed that day in the duels and the races. Has the physical preparation been too focused on this meeting, which mainly occupied the minds of the French staff for many weeks? All the beautiful things seen against Germany did not withstand physical wear and tear and the incessant changes of Didier Deschamps.
The fault may be a badly interpreted second meeting. Stifling heat due to the schedule rarely appreciated by the players (3 p.m.), an overexcited stadium after months of football without supporters, an overexcited opponent with aggressive play, the context was not obvious. Of course, the France team did not have a great match that day, but it was far from being a disaster. However, it generated the changes of Deschamps: return to asymmetrical 4-2-3-1 against Portugal, which will be abandoned during the meeting, passage to 3-5-2 against Switzerland. And never an attempt at a more offensive starting XI, with a fourth element like Dembélé (before his injury) or Coman.
Defense at bay
Let’s say it here, there were doubts about the level of French defense before starting Euro 2020. Between a Varane on alternating current with Real Madrid, a Kimpembe exhausted by a long season with PSG and still subject to some Carelessness on each meeting, and a Pavard limited to the position of right side, one predicted difficulties in this sector. The match against Germany deceived everyone, and the Blues conceded 6 goals in 3 games. Too much to hope for.
Individual performances were also decisive. Benjamin Pavard’s tournament is catastrophic. After a good match, like everyone else, against Germany (to see if the clash with Gosens had an impact), he sank in great lengths against Hungary and Switzerland. A positioning still too high which forced Varane to compensate almost permanently but no offensive weight so far. Kimpembe missed out against Switzerland after a hitherto satisfactory Euro, and we will not talk about the unfortunate Lenglet, sent to the fire in one shot to reproduce what Barcelona fans have seen far too much during the season.
A dreaded but stale attacking trio
“All countries envy us”, titled The team on June 2. Not wrong, at least on paper. In fact, it did not work. So yes, Benzema managed his comeback in Blue, with two brims against Portugal and Switzerland, and Griezmann scored an important goal against Hungary. But in the game, we rarely felt a real connection between the three men (except Monday night against Switzerland on goals from Benzema). The connection, it was especially sought, in an often exaggerated way, between Mbappé and Benzema, Griezmann sometimes giving the feeling of being the third thief a bit neglected.
The frequent zoning of Benzema, not present enough in the area on the few centers, the sometimes individualistic choices of Mbappé, and the at half mast influence of Griezmann, little inspired on set pieces, did not validate the idea. of an obvious complementarity between the three men. Each time, the entry of a fourth man to give breadth (Dembélé, Coman) did the team good. By giving them the keys to offensive animation and giving them great freedom of movement, Deschamps played a card he thought was an ace. It floped.