France are in the final of World Cup 2018 after a 1-0 win over Belgium in the semi-finals on Tuesday night. A 51st-minute header from Barcelona centre-back Samuel Umtiti was enough to give Les Bleus the victory.
Some will have judged the game as a tactical battle, while others will have seen it in a less flattering way. However, either way, France will have the chance to win the World Cup on Sunday for only the second time in history.
Didier Deschamps keeps the handbrake on
France are very much a team built in the image of boss Didier Deschamps during his career. Eric Cantona once dubbed Deschamps as ‘the water carrier’, as he did all the dirty work for the more talented players.
He worked hard, but he was very cautious in his approach. While France have some fantastic attacking players in the likes of Antoine Griezmann and of course Kylian Mbappe, their approach to games is very measured.
Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, for example, is playing within himself, or as the title suggests with the handbrake on. However, France is unlikely to change that successful style, as they have made it to the final.
French team built on solid defensive foundations
Deschamps team for all the undoubted attacking talent in their squad, the team is built on solid defensive foundations. First-choice centre-back pairing Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane ply their trades at Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, where both have endured mixed fortunes.
However, the pair has worked superbly in tandem for Les Bleus in Russia. Both are highly-rated, and the World Cup has shown what they can do when on top form.
A special mention should go to Benjamin Pavard, who is primarily a centre-back covering at right-back. Although Eden Hazard gave the defender some problems early on against Belgium, the youngster stuck at it, and the winger’s influence waned as the game reached its conclusion.
One vital part of the current French set-up is energetic Chelsea defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante. Everybody in football knows the little man’s qualities, and they have been on full display at the World Cup.
He is the sort of defensive shield that every self-respecting team needs. If his defence are in trouble, more often than not Kante is there to help them out. With Kante in front of the French backline, they look even more formidable.
France the favourites to lift the trophy
Les Bleus always looked like a team capital of going all the way in Russia and lifting the World Cup. They had an insanely talented group of individuals, who had also have massive experience of big events in club football.
Didier Deschamps side remains favourites to win the World Cup at odds of 4/6, which is unsurprising considering the talent they have in their ranks. Les Bleus could well win the World Cup with a cautious, but successful style of play. Some have even compared the current style of play to that of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho.
When thinking about World Cup winning teams, you think that they must have been amazing teams. However, not many teams who have won the World Cup are considered vintage teams.
The teams that lift the trophy often achieve their success by expert planning, excellent organisation and tactical understanding of their coach, rather than brilliant attacking football. Of course, we would all like a team that plays expansive, attractive football to win the World Cup.
However, the world or indeed the World Cup does not work in that way. France have not played the most attractive football in the competition, but they have a talented group of players and a boss who has found a winning formula.
Deschamps is unlikely to change his tactical thinking for the final. Somehow France could get to their desired destination without ever taking the handbrake off.
Will France be lifting the World Cup on Sunday?
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