France had a troublesome time against a formidable Nigeria team, but was still able to find their rhythm and get the goals when they needed it.
Thanks to the goals from Paul Pogba in the 79th minute and an own goal by the Nigerian skipper Joseph Yobo in stoppage time, France was able to get past Nigeria and head to the Quarterfinals. They were able to beat Nigeria to a score line of 2-0, but the score line does not tell the whole story.
France manger, Didier Deschamps, opted to go with a more experienced line-up against Nigeria. He went with Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud replacing Mamadou Sakho and Antoine Griezmann respectively.
But with Giroud’s inclusion in the starting line-up, it means that Real Madrid striker, Karim Benzema, will be deployed as a left winger. Benzema out on the wing means that he’ll have to make runs and track back to help out on the defensive end, but he’s not the type of player to do that.
He’s best suited to play as the lone striker up top, and Deschamps has to realize and notice that he has to use his best player at his best position.
Benzema was not involved in the French attack for most of the first half and a little bit of the second half, partly because Giroud’s in his favored position and all the plays are centered toward that position. The holdup plays are nice from Giroud, but it’s not enough. He just does not have the finishing capabilities like Benzema to be a threat with the ball on the ground.
His aerial threat is a plus, but France has plenty of other players who are capable of getting into the box and head the ball into the net from set-pieces.
Giroud should’ve started from the bench and not Griezmann.
Griezmann adds a traditional wing play while also making runs inside the box to be a threat. He’s also surprisingly good in the air so he’s also a threat in the air. He may not have the experience as Giroud does, but he’s style of play suits better for France while having Benzema playing as the central striker.
There’s more flow in the French attack when Griezmann is on than when Giroud is on and France is all about having that fluidity in their attack. Griezmann also allows space for Benzema to operate by being out on the wings. The defensive-line will then be stretched out instead of being compacted in the middle guarding two strikers, which will allow plenty of midfield players to get in on the attack as well.
Benzema’s the type of player that wants the ball at his feet and make plays for his teammates and if he’s deployed on the wings, then his talent and skills are being wasted. He won’t get involved in the attacks as much, which means the goals will have to come from other players and at this point does not seem like it’ll happen with Giroud on the field.
France has also another issue and that’s the defensive pairings. Koscienly seemed quite uncomfortable in the back, sometimes not knowing when to come out to tackle or stay back and play conservatively, but that’s a major concern. His indecisiveness allowed Nigeria space to pass around and to shoot from distance to trouble the keeper. Koscienly is also not very big in stature so he’s not that menacing when confronted face to face.
But, Sakho is a beast in the back and his physical presence was badly missed against Nigeria.
Luckily for the French, Nigeria was not able to convert their chances, but they should be concerned with this issue against their next opposition.
Germany is up next for the French and both teams have under-performed in their previous matches. But, Germany is significantly better than the Nigerians and France should not be careless with their mistakes from the Nigeria game.
But, if Deschamps chooses to go with Griezmann over Giroud and Sakho over Koscienly, Griezmann’s play style and Sakho’s physical presence might be enough for France to go through.
Deschamps has a choice to make whether to go with an experienced line-up or a line-up that suits the ability of his star-striker, Benzema, and depending on what he chooses it’ll determine the outcome of the first half and eventually the game.