France booked their second World Cup win by beating Denmark 2-1 at the Stadium 974, courtesy of two goals from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (61′, 86′), while Barcelona defender Andreas Christensen had Denmark temporarily level with his 68th-minute strike.
The reigning champions of the world have apparently taken their title defence very seriously after conceding that early goal in the opening match against Australia. They bounced back that day with four goals of their own, and even in the absence of someone like Karim Benzema, Didier Deschamps’ men seem extremely motivated to prove themselves again.
Mbappe, of course, aims to justify his status as one of the best players on the planet, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele probably want to show that they’re over the respective issues which plagued them at Barcelona, until the former returned to Atletico Madrid and the latter signed a new contract, and at the age of 36, Olivier Giroud seems determined to leave the international stage in a blaze of glory. The veteran striker has an added motive of potentially becoming his country’s top goalscorer in history, for which he only needs to find the back of the opposition net once more, standing currently level with the iconic Thierry Henry.
Arranged in a very offensive 4-2-3-1, with a double pivot of Real Madrid’s Aurelien Tchouameni and Juventus’ Adrien Rabiot, and the quartet of Giroud, Mbappe, Dembele and Griezmann upfront, France are an extremely formidable side to face for anyone.
Apart from Benzema’s injury, Deschamps had issues at the back as well, with Bayern Munich defender Lucas Hernandez forced to leave Qatar with an ACL tear, and replaced by his brother, Theo of AC Milan.
France don’t insist on a possession-based game. Instead, they tend to draw the opposition back line further up and then move the ball quickly, taking advantage of the tremendous pace of both Mbappe and Dembele. Giroud’s aerial prowess and ability to engage such wingers efficiently plays its part too.
In this match, for example, the 48% of the time that the ball was under their control was quite enough for their victory to be fully deserved. All three attackers were an ever-present threat to the goal of Kasper Schmeichel, who faced seven shots on target of the 21 France took in total.
Naturally, such an approach demands defensive stability as well, and experienced Raphael Varane of Manchester United fully justified Deschamps’ decision to put him in the starting XI ahead of Liverpool youngster Ibrahima Konate, beside Bayern Munich’s Dayot Upamecano. Captain Hugo Lloris in goal did his bit too, as did Theo Hernandez with his frequent bursts up the left flank while Benjamin Pavard on the right appeared more defence-oriented.
Kasper Hjulmand’s team did not play a bad game either, it’s just that they faced an opponent too good for their quality to overcome. It was a lot better performance than the one they put in against Tunisia in the opening match which ended goalless.
Arranged in a 3-4-3 formation, they were very flexible with wing-backs Joachim Maehle and Rasmus Kristensen contributing plenty throughout the lengths of their respective flanks. There was very little wrong in their approach, especially from the tactical perspective, and the only real issue they had was the immense individual quality of the players they were supposed to stop.
Despite obviously having more of the ball between the first and the last whistle, they took less than half of the number of shots taken by France (a total of 10), and only 2 went on target.
Hjulmand was naturally disappointed with the way his team played against Tunisia. This time it wouldn’t have been the case but for the rather problematic situation in which Denmark find themselves going into the final round.
The final round
It’s Australia who Denmark have to beat if they want to go through to the round of 16, Australia who managed to do what Denmark couldn’t – beat Tunisia, and now it’s Australia sitting in second place with three points, while Denmark share their position with Tunisia on one.
A win would surely see Denmark go through, except in the case of a higher Tunisia triumph over France, which obviously isn’t likely to happen.
Even though France have practically secured the top spot in the group, they won’t want to go into the next stage on the back of defeat. Deschamps is likely to rest some players against Tunisia, but his squad is clearly rich enough with quality players for that not be an issue. The likes of Konate, Kingsley Coman, Marcus Thuram, Eduardo Camavinga and Jordan Veretout, as well as Matteo Guendouzi and Youssuf Fofana, will all relish the prospect of possibly starting the match, eager to make their mark at the tournament too.
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