Sunday, February 17, 2019 | ePaper

French defensive strength key to World Cup charge

  • Print
AFP, Saint Petersburg :
France have a much-vaunted attack but it is their defense marshalled by Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane that is impressing at the World Cup - at both ends of the pitch.
Centre-back Umtiti scored the only goal in Tuesday's semi-final to condemn Belgium's 'golden generation' to the third-place playoff in Russia.
For the third straight knockout match, France needed a game-changing goal from a defender despite boasting a fearsome attacking pair of 19-year-old sensation Kylian Mbappe and Euro 2016 Golden Boot winner Antoine Griezmann.
Right-back Benjamin Pavard's stunning long-range effort from left-back Lucas Hernandez's cross levelled Les Bleus' last-16 tie with Argentina at 2-2 after Didier Deschamps' side fell behind for the first time in the tournament.
Mbappe then took centre-stage in a thrilling 4-3 win on the only occasion the French defense have looked vulnerable in Russia.
Varane headed the opener in a 2-0 quarter-final win against Uruguay as Luis Suarez was shut out.
And Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku could not break through in Saint Petersburg as France registered a fourth clean sheet in six World Cup games to reach the final.
"The defense was excellent," said Deschamps when asked if Tuesday's performance was the best defensive display during his reign.
"We had to defend deep, very deep at times because Belgium has technical quality. The idea was not to give them space because they've rolled over everyone (in reaching the semi-finals), even Brazil."
On the few occasions the French defence has been breached, captain Hugo Lloris has come up with big saves against Uruguay and Belgium. Deschamps' cautious approach does not win admirers from all quarters.
Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois declared the result "a shame for football". But the success of reaching the World Cup final after also playing in the Euro 2016 final is hard to argue with.
As France look to make amends for losing to Portugal on home soil two years ago, the presence of Varane could make the difference.
Fresh from winning his fourth Champions League title at just 25 with Real Madrid, Varane missed the Euros two years ago due to a thigh injury.
Rivals at club level, he and Barcelona's Umtiti have formed a strong partnership with a combination of aerial power and speed across the ground. "
As in 2016, the dynamic within the team is very good, but the team is more mature. There is more experience," said Varane.
Umtiti was drafted in for his international debut to cover for Varane two years ago, and is determined not to suffer another disappointment in a final.
"I'm not a lucky charm," he said. "We did not win the final at the Euros - that's why it's important for me to reach the World Cup final. I hope it will be different and we can bring it back to France."
Either side of Varane and Umtiti, Deschamps' decision to use 22-year-old converted centre-backs Hernandez and Pavard instead of Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe for their better defensive qualities has been thoroughly justified.
Deschamps' France may not enthral like the World Cup-winning side of 1998 he captained, but they will be hard to beat for England or Croatia come Moscow on Sunday.

More News For this Category

Brazil to play Panama in friendly at Porto

AP, Rio De Janeiro :Brazil's national team will play its first friendly of the year against Panama on March 23 in Portugal.The Brazilian football confederation said Friday the match will

Capoue sends Watford into FA Cup quarter-finals at QPR's expense

Capoue sends Watford into FA Cup quarter-finals at QPR's expense

Etienne Capoue's goal in first-half stoppage time was enough to give Watford a 1-0 win away to Queens Park Rangers (QPR) on Friday that saw the Hornets into the quarter-finals

Ronaldo on target as Juventus cruise before Atletico showdown

Ronaldo on target as Juventus cruise before Atletico showdown

AFP, Milan :Cristiano Ronaldo set up Paulo Dybala to score early and added one himself with defender Leonardo Bonucci also on target as Juventus surged 14 points clear in Serie

Lyon warm up for Barca with 2-1 win over Guingamp in France

Lyon warm up for Barca with 2-1 win over Guingamp in France

AP, Lyon :Lyon warmed up for its Champions League meeting with Barcelona by beating Guingamp 2-1 on Friday to strengthen its hold on third place in the French league.Goals from

Valencia too strong for Celtic to close on Europa League last 16

Valencia too strong for Celtic to close on Europa League last 16

Agency :Valencia closed in on the last 16 of the Europa League by inflicting just Celtic's second home defeat of the season with a 2-0 win in Glasgow on

Refugee Hakeem al-Araibi (left) signs a ball for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on Thursday. Al-Araibi was detained in Thailand for three months under threat of extradition to Bahrain and has come to Canberra to shake hands with the Prime Minister and say thank you for his freedom.

Refugee Hakeem al-Araibi (left) signs a ball for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on Thursday. Al-Araibi was detained in Thailand for three months under threat of extradition to Bahrain and has come to Canberra to shake hands with the Prime Minister and say thank you for his freedom.

.

Arsenal stunned by Borisov in Europa League

Arsenal stunned by Borisov in Europa League

Agency :Arsenal slumped to a 1-0 defeat at BATE Borisov in the first leg of the Europa League's round of 32 on Thursday, while crosstown rival Chelsea shook off

Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to present joint 2030 World Cup bid

Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to present joint 2030 World Cup bid

Agency :Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay are to submit a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera announced on Thursday.Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay had

French league to join lawsuit against racist Mbappe graffiti

French league to join lawsuit against racist Mbappe graffiti

Agency :The French football league (LFP) said on Thursday it ill join a lawsuit against the authors of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti targeting Paris St Germain striker Kylian

UEFA investigate after Ramos says he got booked on purpose

UEFA investigate after Ramos says he got booked on purpose

Agency :UEFA has launched a disciplinary investigation that could rule Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos out of a potential Champions League quarter-final, first leg after he admitted getting booked