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Jun 11

France 2-1 Romania: Tricolorii’s high press almost pays off as Payet’s piledriver offers a lucky win for Les Bleus

Dimitri Payet pulled the rabbit out of the hat in the 90th minute and won the opening match for his country. The diminutive Frenchman re-paid the faith shown in him with a performance and a goal that would be remembered for a long time. Far from the match winning performance, all else was not well for Deschamps and Co. as they flattered to deceive. While Giroud might have scored an excellent header, the lax attitude of few players and ineffective tactics will be questioned.

Starting Lineups

France: Lloris; Evra, Koscielny, Rami, Sagna; Kante, Matuidi, Pogba; Payet, Griezmann, Giroud

Romania: Tatarusanu; Sapunaru, Chiriches, Grigore, Rat; Stanciu, Hoban, Pintilii; Popa, Andone, Stancu

 

Tactics

First Half

First Half

Formations in the First Half

Both teams started with 4-3-3 formations, albeit with different tactical setups. Romania surprised the hosts with a bright start to the match. The usual notion that they would concede possession and play on the counter was quashed with some quality high and energetic pressing. The 4-3-3 of Romania resembled more of a 4-4-2 when they were pressing as Hoban drifted onto the left flank to press Sagna, and Stancu and Andone pressed the two Franch Centrebacks. The midfield trio of Matuidi, Kante and Pogba were getting chased around by the two Romanian midfielders Pintilli and Stanciu. This was a 3 v 2 situation in the mid in favor of the French, but the quick pressing stuttered the hosts’ passing rhythm.

High Press from the Romanian front six

aerials first half

Aerial Duels won in First half. Yellow border – Romania wins, Blue border – France wins

Of the back 7 of France, only one player was always free with no marker on him. Kante always found himself free to receive the ball from his defense and carry it forward, but was always closed down once he got the ball. Their wingers Payet and Griezmann too were closely followed by the opposition fullbacks Rat and Sapunaru. This made it difficult to weave a string of passes through the middle.

The high press was rewarding initially as the visitors came very close to getting a goal, but were denied by a brilliant save by Lloris. But once the dust settled, Kante made sure his defenders always had a passing option when they were pressed. His crunch tackling and ball retention skills took the pressure off his teammates and allowed them to get into good positions. The right side of the pitch was targeted heavily by the visitors, as long balls from deep flew in the direction of Andone and Stancu. This certainly made Rami’s life hard as he had to drift out of position on many occasions. Also, the above image displays the Aerial duels won in the first half. Though France did win many of them, they would either head it out or to another Romanian player.  Star man Antoint Griezmann, who started on the right flank was completely nullified by Rat and Hoban, as closed him down quickly or intercepted passes directed towards him. Griezmann failed to get into the game and seek those invisible spaces in the attacking third. His headed attempt on goal which hit the post was the only highlight of his shambolic first half display.

Griezmann fails to impress

France first half passing

Passing Chart of France in first half

Paul Pogba tried to help his teammate by drifting out to the right flank and even the numbers. This did not help much, as Griezmann’s runs were not enough to penetrate the two defensive midfielders of Romania, who were not letting any passes or players through. The positioning and pressing of Pintilli and Stanciu forced the French to play from the wings. As most of the Romanian play was concentrated on the right side, Payet and Matuidi took advantage of the space available on the left. Most of the France’s passing was channeled to the left, as Evra bombed forward to overlap in the attacking third. The passing chart clearly shows the concentration of passes on the wings. One can also observe a high number of unsuccessful passes (Red) on the right flank where Griezmann was positioned.

tackles first half

Tackles attempted in First half. Red Cross – lost, Green cross – won l Yellow border – Romania, Blue border – France

Olivier Giroud had the best chance of scoring in the first half as both his free headers could have landed in the back of the net, only for the Arsenal man to head them high or wide. Evra and Sapunaru endured a rigourous battle on the left flank, and the Romanian right back came up trumps with two successful takeons. One can observe from the above image the high number of tackles on the left flank where all the French play was concentrated.

Second Half

second half

Second half formations

The second half started with the same intensity as the first with Romania pressing the French with purpose. The lack of penetration through the center in the first half concerned Didier Deschamps, and he instructed his players to take a higher block on the pitch. The defense line moved higher up the pitch and inturn pushed the midfielders into the opposition half. The wide men Payet and Griezmann drifted into central zones which saw minimal activity in the first half. Pogba and Matuidi were now in attacking positions, trying to overload the Romanian midfielders with good linkup play from fullbacks.

Payet hits a higher gear, Evra goes missing

The tactic of forcing play into the previously blocked out zone, started to materialize for France as the passes started flowing. The Romanians still pressed hard but the pressing was now confined to their half. Payet drifted into central zones allowing Matuidi to move wide and linkup with Evra. Giroud moved into deeper positions and forced Chiriches to follow him. Griezmann tried to occupy the spaces vacated by Giroud but was usually unsuccessful.

second half france passing

Passing Chart of France in Second half

The French formation resemled a 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 as Payet and Pogba pulled the strings as they interchanged positions and drifted all across the pitch. The deadlock was broke with a goal from Giroud after some fine work on the flank by Payet. The Romanian keeper could have done better with the timing of his jump and it was his mistake that allowed Giroud to place the header in the back of the net. Meanwhile, Patrice Evra, who was hardly visible in the first half made life difficult for this team by giving away a cheap penalty. The veteran leftback seemed out of sorts with his positioning and allowed the likes of Popa and Sapunaru to beat him on multiple occasions.

Deschamps shuffles the attack, gets the win

The equalizer forced a French substitution as Griezmann was brought off for the 19 year old Kingsley Coman. Coman slotted into the right wing and was instructed to stretch the play. With no luck in the next 10 minutes, Pogba came off for Anthony Martial. The formation was now a proper 4-2-3-1 with Martial on the left wing and Payet as the No.10. The Romanians chose to stay deep and play on the counter as time ticked away.

payetcelebration

Man of the Match – Dimitri Payet

This deep positioning of the visitors allowed Kante and Matuidi to push forward along with the fullbacks. It took a 90th minute sensational strike from Dimitri Payet to break the Romanian defense. Sagna and Coman worked the ball the wings and passed it to the on-rushing Kante. Kante picked out Payet, who found a pocket of space just in front of the Romanian defense. All he needed was half a yard to unleash a thunderbolt into the top corner and give the home crowd a memorable win.

Conclusion

It was individual brilliance of Payet and Lloris that earned the French side this victory. Griezmann and Evra were invisible for major portions of the match and Pogba did not play to even 50% of his potential. Didier Deschamps’s tactics were easily countered by the Romanians with high intensity pressing and nullifying passing angles. There is much work ahead for the host team and its manager.

Romanian manager Anghel Iordanescu almost knicked away a point, but will be proud of his side’s performance. The discipline in defense and cohesion in pressing were their silver arrows against a star-studded French lineup. If similar performances continue, they could be toppling Switzerland for second place in the group.

About the author

Sai Kumar

A Sports fanatic. I watch almost every sport, even golf. A core Germany and Chelsea fan. Ferrari and Schumacher in F1, Federer and Sampras in Tennis, Lakers in basketball and Yankees in baseball. Zidane, Ronaldo(Phenomeno), Beckham, Drogba, Kaka, Ganguly are my idols.

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