Three months have passed since their defeat in the Euro2016 finals and France has hit the ground running toward the World Cup. With wins against Bulgaria (4-1) and Netherlands (1-0), the Bleus have risen to the top of their qualifying group. Didier Deschamps recovered Varane on defence and tried Sidibé out on the right wing, alternating Evra and Kurzawa on the left and Giroud with Gameiro in offence. Three changes compared with the base formation at the end of Euro2016, although leaving the basic 4-2-3-1 formation unchanged.

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The most interesting news has to do with the feeling between Gameiro and Griezmann, stimulated by the fact that the two have been playing together for Atletico Madrid for a few months now. Gameiro’s presence on the front line allows France to stay dangerous on deep balls, but adding greater collaboration with the ball on the ground. Add to that the ability to cut into the penalty area quickly and you have a very dynamic, technical and unpredictable offence. Exactly what is needed to enhance the qualities of a star player like Griezmann.

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The Atletico Madrid attacker’s contribution is France’s extra weapon. By now quite comfortable in his role as leader, in these matches he has confirmed that he can make the difference as a link as well, capable of enhancing Gameiro’s manoeuvres and movement toward Payet and Sissoko’s centre. Class, speed and one-touch passing are his strong points. Improving team movements, his contribution can only improve even more.

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France’s main problem in Euro2016 was with the build-up stage. And the first matches of the new two-year period seem to fall into line. After all, the midfield has not changed at all with Matuidi in front of the defence assisted by Pogba and the occasional moves to the centre by Sissoko and Payet. When pressed, France struggles to get the ball out of its own half. Pogba’s improvement in this area of the pitch will be decisive, a hot topic in the past few months with Manchester United as well.

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The best things always happen when France manages to recover the ball deep in the opposing team’s territory. Even Pogba’s goal in Holland stemmed from this type of situation, with Koscielny beating out the Oranje forwards at the midfield line. Pressing is still the best way to mask the difficulties Deschamps’ men have in the build-up state.

Mattia Fontana
Mattia Fontana, Eurosport Italia editor.