Tuesday, November 13, 2018 | 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

Barcelona lose 4-3 to Betis despite 2 goals by Messi

AP, Barcelona :Lionel Messi scored twice on his return from a broken arm but Barcelona conceded four goals and was reduced to 10 men in a 4-3 home defeat to

Madrid 'very happy' with Solari : Butragueno

AFP, Madrid :Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno has said the club are delighted with Santiago Solari's spell in charge after the team posted their fourth consecutive win by beating Celta

New York City forward David Villa (7) movers the ball as Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) defends during the first half of their MLS playoff soccer match in Atlanta on Sunday.

New York City forward David Villa (7) movers the ball as Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) defends during the first half of their MLS playoff soccer match in Atlanta on Sunday.

Coe warns against boycott of Qatar world championships

AFP, Doha :Sebastian Coe said Sunday that sport should take precedence over politics and urged nations locked in a diplomatic dispute with Qatar not to boycott next year's world athletics

Players of Bangladesh Under-23 Football team during their practice session at the Bir Shreshtha Shaheed Sepoy Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium in the city's Kamalapur on Monday.

Players of Bangladesh Under-23 Football team during their practice session at the Bir Shreshtha Shaheed Sepoy Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium in the city's Kamalapur on Monday.

Forget the title, derby defeat leaves Man Utd fighting for top four

AFP, Manchester :Manchester United can forget trying to challenge Manchester City until they can even compete for a place in the Premier League top four, Jose Mourinho confessed as his

Madrid win 4-2 at Celta

AP, Vigo :Karim Benzema scored a superb opening goal in Real Madrid's 4-2 win at Celta Vigo in the Spanish league on Sunday, boosting interim coach Santiago Solari's chances of

PSG rout Monaco 4-0 to win 13th straight league game

PSG rout Monaco 4-0 to win 13th straight league game

AP, Paris :Runaway French league leader Paris Saint-Germain won 4-0 at Monaco on Sunday to secure a 13th straight league win and move 13 points clear at the top.Striker Edinson

Ronaldo ends San Siro hoodoo as Juventus beat Milan 2-0

Ronaldo ends San Siro hoodoo as Juventus beat Milan 2-0

AP, Milan :Cristiano Ronaldo ended his San Siro hoodoo to help Juventus to a 2-0 win after AC Milan forward Gonzalo Higuain missed a penalty against his former team on

Iran women attend Asian Football final in rare `victory`

Iran women attend Asian Football final in rare `victory`

Hundreds of Iranian women attended a crunch football match in Tehran, in a rare step seen Sunday as a "victory" by local newspapers and hailed by FIFA as an "historic