The France team ended its last summer window of the season with a defeat against Croatia (0-1) in the League of Nations on Monday June 13. One more false note after three other failed matches: a defeat at home against Denmark (1-2), a draw in Croatia (1-1) and another in Austria (1-1). The Blues still have time before the World Cup in Qatar (from November 21 to December 18), but they already have only two preparation matches left in the League of Nations, scheduled for September. In the meantime, only a very few have emerged from this international window in June.
They won points: Tchouaméni, Kimpembe and Maignan
A player will have taken full advantage of this international window to consolidate his place in the France team. In the absence of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté, Aurélien Tchouaméni chained three starts during the first three outings, and it was he who was called first off the bench on Monday evening to give new impetus against Croatia. The new Real Madrid player did not need to shine as much as against Ivory Coast in March (he had snatched the victory at the end of the match), to take advantage of the absences of the usual midfield bosses.
During the rally in March, Presnel Kimpembe no longer seemed to be one of the first choices. With the move to three-man defense, the hinge he formed with Raphaël Varane was called into question. But this month of June propelled him into a role he had not yet known with the Blues, that of captain, during the two games against Croatia. On the way to Split, the contrast with the inexperience of his teammates in defense gave him the air of a boss.
The other player who earned points during this lackluster tour is Mike Maignan. The AC Milan goalkeeper made two flawless copies against Croatia, conceding no goal in the game (two from the penalty spot). After the match in Split, a debate arose regarding the starting position in goal. Didier Deschamps quickly closed it. There will be no short-term change in the hierarchy at the post, but Maignan is now more than a number 2.
They have lost: Griezmann, Clauss and Saliba
But where did the leader of the 2018 World Cup go? The more time passes, the more Antoine Griezmann goes into the background. The brilliant playmaker is absent, just like the goalscorer he knew he was. He remains in seven games without scoring with the Blues (23 in all competitions). The Atlético de Madrid striker was the first to come out against Denmark and Austria (apart from the changes forced by injury) and his two appearances did not cause anything. He became the third choice in attack, behind Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema, while Christopher Nkunku knocked on the door.
Jonathan Clauss did not even have time to speak on the pitch to defend his chances at the right-back position. Arriving at the previous rally, the Lensois seemed to be the missing puzzle piece in the piston system favored by Deschamps since the fall. He only had one minute against Denmark and 11 in the first leg against Croatia (time to concede a penalty). Jules Koundé, though injured, started his job on Monday. When he came out at the break, the team needed an attacking player and the coach of the Blues preferred to bring in Benjamin Pavard.
The disavowal is not so obvious for William Saliba, but he too had a great opportunity to climb in the hierarchy of central defenders. His two tenures in Croatia and Austria were inconclusive. His frequent errors in the relaunch recalled his end of the season on the kneecaps with Marseille. Enough to pass in front of Ibrahima Konaté, who was initially not part of the list.
He lost us: Didier Deschamps
Four games, four tactical systems. During this gathering, the French team successively played in 3-4-1-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 then in 4-4-2. A lack of continuity when Didier Deschamps had assured at the beginning of June that he wanted to refine the three-way system.
After the defeat against Denmark, if the coach did not reveal his plans, at the risk of appearing uncertain in his choices, he in any case seemed to retreat in his thought process. He has thus made a return to a more solid four-man base which has made the great hours of the France team in recent years, especially during the 2018 World Cup.
Despite the vagueness that persisted with the abandonment of the 3-4-1-2, Deschamps affirmed Monday evening that he remains “priority”. “The three-man system has advantages and requires you to be at your best physically. When I realized that was not the case, I decided to go for something more rational” Exhausted by their season, the players may have alerted the coach on the subject.
Will the three-defender system make a comeback at the next international meetings, once everyone has rested? See you in September.