by Sylvain Jamet, reporting from Moncton, NB Canada
The group opener between France and England will be a heavyweight contest and should decide who tops the Group F.
France, led by Phillipe Bergeroo, are ranked number three by FIFA, their highest position ever. They have mutated from an all attacking combo style to a more physical side in order to compete on the physical side of the game against teams like Germany, the USA or Sweden.
Bergeroo departed from the traditional 4-3-3 system used by his predecessor Bini and has used his preferred 4-4-2 system. He has a very settled team and recently explained that the hierarchy between players is clearly established. “There are players who will play a lot, some who will play a little and some who will not play at all,” he said.
France play a traditional possession-based attacking football style with creative midfield players like Necib and Abily and an excellent front two of Le Sommer and Thiney. On the defensive side, Henry is a world class number six sitting in front of the two powerful center backs Renard the tall captain and Georges the enforcer.
Bergeroo has only lost two games against the USA since he took over in August 2013 and therefore France will be a tough opponent for England.
Expected starting 11 ( 4-4-2 with a flat midfield):
Bouhaddi, Houara Georges Renard Majri or Boulleau, Thomis or Dali Henry Abily Necib, Thiney Le Sommer.
Substitutes with a potential impact:
- Delie the PSG center forward who scored in the Champions League final is coming back to her best form after loosing her starting place in recent seasons.
- Lavogez a creative midfielder who is played on either wing or as a second striker if needed.
- Hamraoui the pure physical defensive midfielder often coming on to close a game or sometimes even starts game in certain tactical configuration.
England are led by Mark Sampson, a newcomer at international coaching level. It is his first international tournament and he is learning on the job. England have won all their qualifying games, as did France, but this is not a proper indication on England’s level.
They have recently won the Cyprus Cup beating Canada, but what was the most interesting thing was the international friendlies against Germany and the USA.
England lost 3-0 at Wembley Stadium to Germany with an attacking set-up i.e. 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. Clearly they got caught with five players being very much attacking minded. Although, there has been talk about the system being the problem, I believe a lot of players did not perform well on the day and did not seem to understand how and where they playing on the pitch.
This resulted in a total shift in the team’s balance for the next game against the USA. The team was set-up very defensively to negate the US attacking threat and to hit them on the break with the speedy forwards Taylor and Kirby. It was a surprising shot to move the cursor from an attacking side to a very defensive one.
It seems that trend has carried on as Sampson said the team will be set up to be difficult to be beaten. This kind of reminds me of the old Hope Powell tactics that led her to her demise after that awful 2013 Euros.
While it is obvious that you cannot go and attack the top three teams with all guns blazing unless you have an exceptional attacking and technically strong squad, it is a surprise to see England go back to a defensive set-up for the World Cup.
Regarding the expect starting 11, there have been so many injury doubt for players in the run up to the competition that probably about five players are guaranteed to start really.
Bardsley, who can be a liabilty in goal as seen in previous tournament and in the last two club seasons. Bronze and Houghton in defence, Nobbs in midfield and Aluko in attack.
Here is an attempt at finding the starting 11 against France in the 4-4-2 flat midfield system:
Bardsley, A Scott or Bronze Houghton Stoney or Bassett or Bronze Greenwood or Rafferty, Aluko Nobbs J Scott or Williams or Chapman Carney, Kirby or Sanderson Taylor or White or Duggan.
Whatever the starting 11, England will be better off scoring first so that they can sit deep and trap the French into a sense of false security while they are on the ball. Should the French team score first, England will certainly have to push up a little more and open themselves too much.
In the pre-match press conference on Monday afternoon, both sides paid respect to their opponents, and expecting a tough game, both managers kept their cards close to their chest regarding their starting 11 or tactics.