for the French team, the floor is no longer up to the defense

They’re not there yet, but if the 2022 version of the Blues embroider a third star above the rooster on December 18 after victory in the final, they owe a lot to their offensive prowess. For a French football built on the founding dogma of defensive solidity in its first World Cup victory, in 1998 – and, on the other hand, in the stunning defeats full of panache in 1982 and 1986 –, the evolution would be revolutionary .

Also read: France-Poland live: Giroud gives Blues the lead before half-time

Sunday, December 4, in the round of 16 against Poland, the French team should bet more on the goals and inspiration of Kylian Mbappé or Antoine Griezmann to beat the excellent goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny than on the tightness of his defense to neutralize star scorer Robert Lewandowski. The strength of this team “This is his range of attacking players. They are all different from each other, and that gives the coach a lot of options. We ask ourselves more questions about defense and, for AFP, Youri Djorkaeff, one of the few offensive players lined up at the 1998 World Cup.

Didier Deschamps knows this. When he is not sending his substitutes out for fresh air like against Tunisia, the coach has a rare strike force, as evidenced by the four goals scored against Australia, two against the Danes. “The enemy knows that there is danger on the left, on the axis, and on the right”, promote one who can rely on the accelerations of Mbappé, the science of the game of Griezmann, the realism of Olivier Giroud and the unsettling dribbles of Ousmane Dembélé.

It is enough to hear Deschamps, song of balance, evoking the Barcelonian Dembélé – the last to arrive in his eleven types – like one “charged with bringing trouble”. Opposing defenses are promised a merry riot that “DD” has never tasted before with him. In 1998, under the leadership of Aimé Jacquet, the success of the Blues was built on an almost impenetrable wall, with two goals conceded in seven games. Without going beyond a catenaccio out of date at the end of the 1990s, captains like Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram or even Didier Deschamps personally were imbued with this defensive Italian culture, after years spent in Serie A.

Accept and assume imbalance

Twenty years later, Deschamps has gone from captaincy to coach as his Blues arrive in Russia with a desire to attack. As this comment from a certain Laurent Blanc illustrates, the world champion became a coach: “In 1998, we built our success on our defense, but that is not the only way to win. If the Blues take two goals in every game, but they score three, we will all be happy too. »

But if Mbappé, 19 at the time, and Griezmann were already present and decisive, it was again by building a defensive balance – found during the tournament – that the Blues won the Grail again. Except for the round of 16 with an unrestrained scenario against the Argentinian (4-3), the French team was annoyed by Uruguay and Belgium in the next two rounds, without conceding a goal. From an imperial Raphaël Varane at the back to Olivier Giroud center forward but first defender, passing through a Samuel Umtiti willing to sacrifice a knee for the motherland and a Paul Pogba of unprecedented toughness, the French are in a mission to protect the goals from Hugo Lloris.

In Qatar, they started their tournament with a line of four defenders (as in Russia), but Deschamps added – and kept – an extra attacking player. This detail in appearance changes the whole philosophy of the team and gives it a bolder nature. “The fact of sometimes having imbalances also allows us to be more dangerous, sharper offensively. When you lose on one side, you win on the other side”observes Raphaël Varane.

In football, you only need to score one more goal than the opponent, but conceding too many has never been the most direct path to world glory. “The base is not as solid as in 2018, but Deschamps’ experience will be very important”, Djorkaeff predicts. Despite all the talent of Mbappé, Griezmann and Giroud, French football once again relies on its “father success” to find the right balance in this supposed imbalance.

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