Will Deschamps stick or twist against Uruguay?
Matuidi’s suspension gives France boss a dilemma
It took France a while to get going at this World Cup, but they looked superb going forward in their 4-2 last-16 win over Argentina.
Kylian Mbappe’s lethal bursts from the right flank were the most eye-catching aspects of the performance, but there was real balance to the France side.
Olivier Giroud provides a much-needed focal point up front, allowing Antoine Griezmann to float around with menace. But Blaise Matuidi on the left was the unsung hero.
Matuidi’s inclusion ahead of Ousmane Dembele was seen by many as another sign of Didier Deschamps’ conservatism.
But the 31-year-old helped to prevent Lionel Messi from having any real influence on the game. He tucked inside to help the midfield without the ball, which gave Mbappe the freedom to race forwards.
However, he’ll be suspended for Saturday’s tricky quarter-final tie against Uruguay. France are evens to go through, but how will Deschamps set up without Matuidi?
Go for it
Uruguay have only conceded one goal so far in Russia. They’ve got an exceptional central defensive partnership in Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, who also play together for Atletico Madrid. They’re shielded by the tireless Lucas Torreira.
It’s obvious the South Americans will be very hard to break down in Nizhny Novgorod. They’ll be happy to sit deep and look to Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani to cause problems on the break.
Deschamps could opt to play a very attacking line-up by selecting Dembele on the left. The Barcelona winger could stretch the Uruguay backline with his speed.
He could also leave out Giroud, as Godin and Gimenez seem to relish defending crosses launched into the box. The trouble with that is a lively trio of Griezmann, Dembele and Mbappe looks good on paper, but it’s lacked any fluency in practice.
Including Dembele could also leave Les Bleus outnumbered in midfield. Dembele and Mbappe aren’t particularly good or interested in tracking back. Paul Pogba can be caught out of position too. Even N’Golo Kante could struggle to contain Uruguay breaks in that set-up.
Keep the balance
The alternative is to find an alternative to Matuidi on the left – someone who can keep moves flowing but is happy to do their bit defensively as well.
Thomas Lemar may be the ideal candidate. He started in that role as part of a heavily-rotated France side in their final group game against Denmark. The Monaco midfielder didn’t stand out in the 0-0 draw, but neither did anyone else on the field. The two sides seemed content with a result that took both of them through.
Lemar’s creativity was vital to Monaco’s surprise title win and Champions League semi-final run two years ago. He had to work incredibly hard in their high-tempo system too.
He doesn’t have Matuidi’s experience, but he’s got real quality and is more than happy to put a shift in.
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