We’ve now reached the semi-final stage and France could well do it again, with Didier Deschamps emulating Aime Jacquet’s formula of a team based on hard work, defensive structure and unity, along with creative geniuses in attack.
It has to be said, France have barely shone in this tournament so far, except for a fireworks display in the 4-3 win over Argentina. Group stage qualification was reached with 2-1 (Australia) and 1-0 (Peru) wins, alongside an awful 0-0 draw against Denmark. There was nothing to lift the fans’ spirits in those performances.
The France team clearly reflects their manager’s personality in their football style: pragmatism and results first, style next, and optional. It’s no surprise that the four top performers in the team are hard working players. The number one being Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, who has been exceptional so far, and is in the top 3 for interceptions and ball recoveries.
Then you have the very versatile Blaise Matuidi, who is crucial to the balance of the team with his left foot, tactical understanding and awareness of danger. And finally, the non-scoring centre-forward who is doing all the hard work for Griezmann and Mbappé, Arsenal’s former striker Olivier Giroud.
Giroud is still getting a fair bit of criticism for not scoring goals. Those who remember ’98 know that Stéphane Guivarc’h was crucial for France as the lone striker, but did not score any goals, and we won nonetheless. Giroud’s hard work creates time and space for his teammates, and is extremely valued by them and the coaching staff. He thrives in the system set-up by Deschamps.
Of course France could certainly play in more attacking style, and use the wealth of talent available, but we know Deschamps will never change. The current tactics might be good enough to win the world cup anyway, in an unspectacular fashion.
First, France will have to beat Belgium, and their array of attacking talent in Hazard, Lukaku and De Bruyne. There’s no doubt that it’ll be an open game, with France being useful on the break, but also capable of keeping the ball to smother the opponent like they did against Uruguay. A difficult task, but it will be an exciting game with end-to-end football.
Then, if we reach the World Cup final, it will be either the attacking and entertaining Croatia or the the boring but efficient England. France v Croatia would be similar to France v Belgium with quite an open game and many chances created. In terms of entertainment it would be a winner.
France v England would be extremely tense with both teams trying to score via set-pieces and making sure they don’t concede the first crucial goal. Both sides have similar defensively minded set-ups relying on speedy attacking players like Mbappé, Sterling or Alli to provide the creativity and the spark.
Overall, I would say France’s chances to win the World Cup are as good as the other three teams. I think there is no team that is vastly superior to the other three.
To me Croatia are slightly more creative than England, and Belgium are more powerful than France, so I would say Croatia 30%, Belgium 30%, France 20% and England 20% chance of winning the tournament. We’ll see.