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France’s possible tactics for the final against Argentina

How will France try to stop Argentina’s attackers in the World Cup final?

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Semi Final - France v Morocco - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - December 14, 2022 France players pose for a team group photo before the match REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

Argentina take on France in the World Cup final on Sunday 18 December, as you may well be aware. Now you know, if you didn’t before. So far during the tournament, the South Americans, led by Lionel Scaloni, have evolved into an attacking unit that is capable of producing moments of magic through a system that facilitates Messi, arguably the best player ever, allowing him the freedom to go in whatever direction his alien nose points him on the pitch.

La Albiceleste started off their quest for glory with a big glass of icy water down their backs, as Saudi Arabia shocked us all by putting two goals past them in one of the shocks of the competition; since then, they’ve slowly climbed up the ladder and seen off more difficult opponents, setting them up for a date with some fabulous French cuisine.

It will be a battle of who blinks first on Sunday 18 December at the Lusail Stadium, with the two teams ready for a tactical war.
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It will be a battle of who blinks first on Sunday 18 December at the Lusail Stadium, with the two teams ready for a tactical war.GABRIEL BOUYS KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEVAFP

France, in contrast to Argentina, haven’t improved as the tournament has gone on, mainly because they were already at an extremely high level to begin with. They were already at the top of the ladder and didn’t have any more rungs to climb. So they just stayed there, batting off opponents like a Money in the Bank WWE match, when a wrestler is hanging onto the briefcase and kicking downwards at anyone who comes close.

France have no need for possession

Their tactical setup so far at the World Cup has been quite, how shall I put this, reserved. Manager Didier Deschamps is just as confident in his team’s abilities with the ball as he is without it, so the idea that France need to dominate proceedings to kill the game is not one that he subscribes to. France, a lot of the time, have less overall possession than their opponents, but the fact that they’re in the final shows that they still win football matches (Spain, I’m looking at you), so they must kill off their enemies in some other way.

Efficiency and direct play is key for Les Bleus

And that is by being terribly efficient and scary, like a pack of Velociraptors. But not normal sized ones, which were about as big as a chicken, I mean the ones from Jurassic Park, the size of a moped, that chase those children into the kitchen. If you’ve seen Real Madrid in the past 7 or 8 years, it’s quite the same thing. The team does not need to be the best all the time, they just need to know when to do so. Both France and Real Madrid know how to ‘suffer’, and they will gladly sit away from the ball in a defensive shape and soak up whatever the other team desires to throw at them, before they decide to show everyone that they are super-sized dinosaurs that slash you to pieces like a bag of feathers.

Kylian Mbappé is one player who is very good at this: the defensive side of his game is not great, in fact it’s quite terrible, but he is happy to be a part of a team that does not attack in a 2-3-5 formation like Manchester City, pushing the opposition back into a hole an octopus would struggle to squeeze into. Instead he will form part of France’s unit, drawing out the other team, waiting to strike. Dembélé on the other wing is just the same, although his inconsistency is such a prominent feature in his repertoire that sometimes analysis of him ends in broken computer screens.

Kylian Mbappé will no doubt try to exploit space behind Argentina's backline.
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Kylian Mbappé will no doubt try to exploit space behind Argentina's backline.BERNADETT SZABOREUTERS

Defenders help attackers in France’s setup

The deadly movement from Mbappé tends to be deadlier when he is allowed inside from the left, something made possible by Theo Hernández, the attacking left-back. Theo bombs forward as one of the dinosaurs, pinning back the opposition right-back, causing them confusion as they don’t know whether to follow Mbappé inwards or stay and barricade the entrance down the wing. The normal thing is for them to pass Mbappé over to a centre-back, and stay with Theo. But it’s never that simple: problems are always on the horizon once the two start running.

Griezmann: Deschamps’ midfield revelation

Didier’s big decision has been to put Antione Griezmann in midfield, and it has worked a treat with the Atlético Madrid midfielder... striker.... whatever you want to call him, impressing with his improved work-rate and tactical nous. Argentina may try to counter his presence on Sunday with an extra midfielder - probably Leandro Paredes - and Grizi will have to find a way around the potential overload in the middle. If Argentina play with a 4-4-2 with De Paul, Paredes, Enzo and Mac Allister, the French midfield will have to exploit any wide spaces that are left if the South Americans try to flood the middle of the pitch. We saw against England that there is no problem for Griezmann in doing that, as he got a wonderful assist for the winning goal from the left wing.

The game on Sunday, on paper, has the potential to be just as wildly exciting as the 4-3 win for France in the 2018 World Cup. But finals are never like that, because France need to be just as aware of Argentina as the South Americans do of them, which will probably make for a cagey affair with the result being decided on a moment of magic. Or dinosaurs.