World Cup 2018: France might just about edge this one
The spectacle is about to come to an end. As the World Cup draws to a close, it is worth noting just how much of a success this tournament has been. This edition has not only lived up to expectations but also surpassed them.
There have been moments that have shocked and thrilled, unexpected results were the norm and to top it all VAR, with every game, has helped narrow the gap between the giants of the game and some of the less fancied sides.
Amidst all the chaos, two teams remain. Two teams who have battled it out and now have a shot at the ultimate prize in Football. Let’s take a look at what has made France so effective.
France went into the tournament as heavy favourites and have lived up to their billing. While sides like Germany and Spain, were knocked out by their less glamorous opponents, France went about their business with resilience and determination. They have not been the most convincing side and have often had to ride their luck, and yet, their ruthlessness is what makes them so difficult to beat.
On paper, they boast the most balanced side of the tournament. They have the firepower when attacking the opposition defence, with players like Mbappe and Griezmann causing havoc every time they get on the ball. The also possess an enviable defensive partnership between Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti, both of whom have been solid at the back.
Just when you thought their team could not get any better, there is the midfield duo of Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante. Kante, in particular, has on many occasions held this team together, both, when defending in transition, and when in possession.
Kante is not the sort of player who dazzles with creative play or someone who scores a lot of goals but more importantly, he is a player who provides balance to the team. He links the defence with the midfield, providing the stability that every team craves.
Kante is present to make an interception or a last-ditch tackle, and, he also provides support with his runs out of defence which effectively enables France to counter with as many as five men at a time. With his non - stop running and vital interceptions, he is a vital cog in this French juggernaut.
The key department where France edge their counterparts is defence. This defence does not give an inch, the back four is solid in the air and are adept with the ball. With their leadership, they have been able to render all attacks ineffective.
Their most impressive display came in the game against Belgium. After Umtiti had given France the lead from a poorly defended corner, this defence set about neutralizing the best offence of the World cup.
Stars like Hazard and De Bruyne were kept as far away from the action as possible, while Lukaku was starved of service up front. It was a defensive masterclass. They harried and harassed the Belgian team, closed the gaps and it was hard to see how they would concede the lead, and they didn’t.
This group of players displayed character and were willing to win ugly. The extra bite in the French team with their vast amounts of experience should see them through for this one.
The biggest challenge that has faced Didier Deschamps is to get these different parts working together with cohesion. While they have often looked like they were lacking ideas during games, France has managed to defend like a unit, making it daunting for the opposition to break them down.
Deschamps will be hoping his defence is up for the game again, while also trying to figure out a way to get his offensive half firing on all cylinders. France has reached the finals without being the most convincing side offensively, the Final of the World Cup is the perfect stage to banish the ghosts of Euro 2016 and dominate the footballing landscape for years to come.