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World Cup 2014

World Cup 2014 Tactics: Analysing France’s tactical approach, formation, and set up

If there’s a man who has a more illustrious career than the entire French cirque that has descended upon Brazil this summer, it is the man at the helm of Les Blues, Didier Deschamps. European honors with Juventus and Marseille, along with a European Championship and World Cup medal are credentials enough to convince any Les Blues fan worth his salt that the former Nantes man is good enough to lead France towards a memorable tournament this year.

Rewind back to the night in Ukraine, in a scenario where France have failed to over turned the two goal deficit and this could have been an entirely different story altogether. Failure to qualify for the finals would have ensured that Deschamps would never be remembered in the history of French football alongside greats like Platini, Zidane, Henry, (and the usual suspects).

After five semi-final appearances at the post-War World Cups, one can safely say that France have either been in the tournament for good, or have gone out whimpering with their tails between their legs. 2002 and 2010 will forever be remembered as the biggest failures at the finals stage.

BASIC FORMATION

Deschamps will be expected to field a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, depending on how the midfield situation shapes up. Three solid central midfielders, along with a trident of two attacking midfielders up front flanking Karim Benzema, mean France will dominate from the middle, holding possession and building up play up front or taking direct shots.

Expected Line-up: Hugo Lloris, Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscienly, Raphael Varane, Patrice Evra, Yohan Cabaye, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena, Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema.

Made using Tactical Pad

Made using Tactical Pad

ANALYSIS

After a number of experiments in qualifying which involved the 4-2-3-1, the 4-1-4-1 and the 4-4-2, Deschamps is most likely to field a flat 4-3-3 or in the rarest of cases a 4-2-3-1. Both the formations involve players who need to be at the top of their game even while playing across positions they usually aren’t deputized in.

The flat back four means the midfield trio will be required to exhibit flexibility and switch positions to remain in cohesion with the trident up front. The win against Ukraine meant that France can now safely take to the ground with a 4-3-3 that has players who fit in well.

Defense: France has one of the most impressive rear guard line-ups amongst all the teams in Brazil this year. Debuchy and Evra may have not had the most impressive of seasons at their clubs and may find it hard to hold down their position in the starting XI, considering the challenges from Bacary Sagna and Lucas Digne. Countering the opposing full-backs, helping the attacking trident press forward should not be a great issue here.

In the heart of the defense, the ever impressive Raphael Varane will be paired with Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny or Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho, who have been at their best all year long in the English Premiership.

Midfield: In Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi, France have two athletic central midfielders, one of whom can finally fill in the dearth that has been created since the retirement of the charismatic Patrick Vieira. Immense physical strength and stamina, means these two will be expected to hit the ground running  and offer support in building up forward play. Another option who offers similar athleticism is Rio Mavuba of Lille.

Offense: With Ribery out of the tournament, it is Montpellier man Remy Cabella who has been summoned as a replacement for the Bayern runner. However it is unlikely that Cabella will directly substitute Ribery in the starting XI. The one man who could make the best of Ribery’s woes is Sociedad winger, Antoine Griezmann, who has had a few amazing seasons in the La Liga recently and is a major transfer target for the red third of London.

While Ribery was reckoned to be France’s savior in this tournament, his fans can seek comfort in the fact that his form had been blowing hot-cold all season, as he struggled with a back injury.

Benzema will be the preferred man up front, even though Olivier Giroud recently knocked in a brace during the friendly against Norway. The Real Madrid forward has had a impressive run-in in the La Liga and has been key to the Los Meringues’ European campaign this season. Again, Karim Benzema isn’t the forward who will create chances around him, unlike Giroud who is required to drop back at Arsenal.

Ribery’s absence makes the front line less potent, with Griezmann’s success as his deputy not being a given. Deschamps may bring in Giroud and Remy more often if the situation demands that the midfielders be involved in goal scoring as well.

Ribery’s absence and Griezmann’s lack of experience mean the man leading the attack will rely massively on the energetic duo of Cabaye and Mathieu Valbuena for goal scoring opportunities.

KEY PLAYERS

Hugo Lloris | The French captain will be the beacon at the back and most of the four in front of him will rely on the Tottenham shot-stopper for inspiration. Evra has been cutting a sorry-figure at Manchester United for far too long now, but alongside Lloris and Sagna, the three can be a part of a solid defensive set up, considering their experience.

Blaise Matuidi | He has been described as one of the finest midfielders in Europe by Carlo Ancelotti and he does indeed fit into the mould of Claude Makelele. At 27, he’ll be expected to be a stand out performer for France as a destroyer in the midfield, breaking down attacks in all his vigour, while also contributing creatively. Remember that assist against Netherlands?

Mathieu Valbuena | With Ribery out, much will be expected of the pacy Valbuena to create chances going up front. With the versatile Griezmann on the left, the pacy duo can be expected to bomb down the flanks, spreading havoc amongst the strongest of defenses.

Antoine Griezmann: Pardon my bias towards the Arsenal target, but the Sociedad forward is one who can create the major difference for the France squad during this tournament. Firstly, he will be a direct replacement for Ribery on the left, while also being adept at playing on the right and through the middle. With 16 goals to his name in the La Liga and 20 across all tournaments, Griezmann should provide some hope to the main operating through the centre of the front line.

Griezmann is uncanny as a wide-player and is less likely to beat his man and whip in a cross, preferring to cut in from the wide line and team up with the center-forward inside the box.

TALENT RADAR KEY YOUNG PLAYERS

Paul Pogba | This will be the tournament that will fill in the void left by the stars of the decade past, and Pogba is one who will be looking to step into the boots of Patrick Vieira. Widely reckoned as Sir Alex’s greatest mistake at Man United, the Juventus star is a supreme athlete with a majestic touch to his play. Alongside Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi, the young Pogba should surely thrive in creating chances and breaking up the attacking opposition with equal swagger. Paul Pogba featured in Outside of the Boot’s list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2014, coming in at #2 in the list of midfielders.

CONCLUSION

With a plethora of talent across all the divisions, France will be expected to put up an exciting show in Brazil. Also, a relatively easy Group E means they should avoid the debacle of having exited the tournament in the group stages, for the third time out of four. A top finish in the group stages would ensure they avoid Argentina and at least progress to the quarter-finals to face the much-fancied Germany.

Read our Analysis of all teams here, and all other WC2014 related content here.

Ameya Ghag

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