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HomeSportsFrance Edges Belgium 1-0: Koundé Shines in Defensive Duel

France Edges Belgium 1-0: Koundé Shines in Defensive Duel

France controlled the ball for most of the match and eventually found the back of the net, securing their place in the quarterfinals of EURO 2024

Didier Deschamps opted to keep Ousmane Dembélé on the bench, deploying Antoine Griezmann as a right winger – an unusual position for him. Griezmann is generally better in making combinations, posing a threat in the opponent’s penalty area, and being more disciplined in defense compared to Dembélé. However, there are questions about Deschamps’ decision after the match.

Marcus Thuram led the line as the center forward, while Olivier Giroud stayed on the bench. Kylian Mbappé played on the left flank, which meant Bradley Barcola didn’t get a chance to play.

Overall, Deschamps went for a 4-3-3 formation with Griezmann tucked into a narrower position on the right wing.

Domenico Tedesco believed that his team was better suited for a defensive style, so Belgium played most of the match in a classic 4-4-2 formation instead of the usual 4-2-3-1 with Kevin De Bruyne as a playmaker.

In the new formation, Kevin De Bruyne played as a central midfielder, and Jérémy Doku often dropped deep to defend, causing significant problems for Belgium in the match.

Deschamps’ Strategy: A Balancing Act

During the game, many experts criticized Deschamps for switching the team’s formation from the usual 4-2-3-1 with Griezmann as the playmaker, to a 4-3-3 with a more functional midfield. While Adrien Rabiot, Aurélien Tchouaméni, and N’Golo Kanté are proficient at initiating attacks, they often struggled to deliver the killer pass in the final third.

Griezmann, operating in the right half-space, seemed to lack creativity and failed to connect effectively with Jules Koundé and N’Golo Kanté for much of the match, although their interaction eventually led to the decisive goal.

Despite the criticisms, Deschamps appears satisfied with his versatile midfield trio, which provides France with a reasonable balance between defense and attack.  

Some pundits argue that replacing Adrien Rabiot with Ousmane Dembélé and reverting to a 4-2-3-1 formation could have given France more attacking potency and created more dangerous chances. 

However, Rabiot is currently seen as more valuable in defense than Dembélé, and in attack, he contributes with intelligent combinations and dangerous runs into the opponent’s penalty area.

Deschamps is aware that his squad might appear more defensive than necessary, but he believes this approach will pay dividends in the playoffs, where a solid defense is crucial.

Belgium’s Attacking Woes: A Tactical Misstep?

Domenico Tedesco focused on deploying counterattacks against France. The plan was for Loïs Openda and Jérémy Doku to quickly advance on the left flank, while Romelu Lukaku would serve as the target man, receiving long passes. 

Kevin De Bruyne was positioned deep in his own half to initiate Belgium’s attacks with his trademark long passes.

However, these tactics fell short as Belgium mostly defended passively throughout the match. This defensive posture forced Jérémy Doku to drop deep to help out, while Loïs Openda spent significant time defending in the central zone. As a result, Belgium couldn’t exploit quick counterattacks from the left side, and De Bruyne was relegated to a more defensive role. 

Romelu Lukaku, typically a robust presence up front, struggled in duels against William Saliba, making it challenging for Belgium to advance with long passes.

In addition, France’s effective pressing strategy blocked passing lanes to De Bruyne and Doku, leaving the rest of the Belgian players uncertain about how to progress the ball.

Despite having a talent-laden squad, Belgium failed to capitalize on their attacking potential. Tedesco’s team struggled to surprise tactically and lacked the attacking ideas and creativity needed to break down France’s defense. 

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Mbappé’s Mixed Performance: Flashes of Brilliance Amidst Inconsistency

As previously mentioned, France encountered challenges on the right flank in generating combinations and maneuvers with Griezmann, Koundé, and N’Golo Kanté.

Simultaneously, Kylian Mbappé’s performance on the left flank was inconsistent. He often failed to position himself effectively to receive passes from Theo Hernández and Adrien Rabiot, limiting their ability to advance into the final third of the field.

In many instances, Mbappé appeared to prioritize his individual play rather than supporting his teammates.

Nevertheless, Mbappé emerged as France’s most potent attacking threat, contributing significantly to the team’s offensive opportunities through his runs and shots.

Jérémy Doku vs Jules Koundé: The Key Duel That Defined the Match

The key duel of the match was between Jérémy Doku and Jules Koundé. Doku, known for his exceptional dribbling and speed, didn’t get the ball as much as he would’ve liked due to Domenico Tedesco’s unsuccessful attacking plan.

Even in the limited opportunities when Doku did get the ball, he posed significant problems for the French team, especially with his blistering runs in the first half and a crucial pass to De Bruyne in the second half, creating the most dangerous moment of the match.

Koundé managed to handle Doku only with timely support from N’Golo Kanté and Aurélien Tchouaméni, making successful tackles and applying strong defensive pressure. Additionally, Koundé played a significant role in the attacks, making five dangerous passes to his teammates and delivering the crucial pre-goal assist at the end of the game.

This was likely what Deschamps had hoped for, as Antoine Griezmann kept Belgian left fullback Arthur Theate occupied, granting Koundé the freedom to impact the game in attacking situations where Doku was less effective defensively.

French Defensive Strength: The Backbone of Their Victory

We have already noted that N’Golo Kanté and Aurélien Tchouaméni helped Jules Koundé neutralize Jérémy Doku, the most dangerous player in the Belgian line-up.

At the same time, the trio of Adrien Rabiot, Aurélien Tchouaméni, and N’Golo Kanté almost completely nullified the influence of Kevin De Bruyne, another pivotal player for Belgium.

This defensive solidity is crucial as it demonstrates that with such a formidable midfield, France can stifle any opponent in the tournament, including Portugal’s attack in the upcoming quarterfinals.

Furthermore, even if the French midfield faced challenges, their defensive line performed nearly flawlessly. William Saliba and Dayot Upamecano were exceptionally reliable, whether pressing in high positions or defending within their penalty area. 

And, of course, we have to remember Theo Hernández’s fantastic tackle in the second half, thwarting Yannick Carrasco’s scoring opportunity.

Tchouaméni and Kolo Muani: Decisive in France’s Victory

The main issue for France in this match was their inability to stretch the opponent’s defense and create combinations on the flanks. Their main focus was on Mbappé’s runs and occasional combinations in the half-spaces.

But that may not be enough to win the tournament.

On the other hand, France’s defense remains rock-solid, anchored by N’Golo Kanté and Aurélien Tchouaméni in the center of the park, along with a reliable backline and an exceptional goalkeeper.

In attack, the French are banking on Aurélien Tchouaméni to shine. He demonstrated exceptional proficiency in distributing the ball into the attacking half yesterday. His incisive passes and long-range strikes could be game-changers in the forthcoming matches.

We should also mention Randal Kolo Muani, who essentially scored the decisive goal in this match. His sharp movements in the penalty area and composed finishing touch might just be the key to France’s success at Euro 2024.

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