The match that was labelled as “the finals before the finals” is now over. And undoubtedly, the better French team won against Belgium convincingly, even though the score card might read 1-0 only. They were much better in all aspects of the games – compact in defense, blocking and possessive in the midfield, quick and creative in their attacks. Belgians tried their best and played well, but at the end of the day, they will also realise that they won against a stronger team. Now coming to #mytake of the match:
– Belgium started well and was dominating in the initial 20 minutes of the match. Anyone who believes that morning shows the day would have been surprised yesterday. That is because France was probably tentative initially, but once they did settle down, they closed down all the spaces the Belgians were enjoying.
– Was surprised by the Belgian strategy of playing with 3 defenders following a 3-5-2 formation against such a strong team like France. I thought they would have continued the same strategy that they followed against Brazil with a 4-2-3-1 formation. On the other hand, France continued with their normal 4-2-3-1 and excelled in that. Pogba and Kante in their role as defensive blockers played excellently and closed down all possible spaces for Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku to exploit. This was evident by the fact that even having 64% possession and playing 594 passes (against 345 passes for the French), Belgium just managed a total of 9 shots with 3 on target.
– After blocking all spaces, France was as usual quick in their counterattacks with Mbappe showing intense speed on their right. In spite of having just 36% possession and much less passes, France had 19 shots at goal – which was a much higher number that Belgians enjoyed. Some of the one-touch football they played in the final third was mesmerising. With a 3 man effective defense and with a somewhat “old” Kompany at guard in central defense, the Belgians was stretched very often whenever the French was on the counter attacks. If they had Chadli dedicated in defense and less in his overlaps, probably there could have been a balance
– I was also little surprised by how deep Hazard was playing with De Bruyne ahead of him. To me, Hazard is much more menacing if he plays just on top of the opponents penalty box; and De Bruyne can play deep and move to attack with his probing long balls as well as quick one-two’s he plays with others. I thought the sting of the Belgian attack just vanished when this happened and frankly speaking, they could not open up the French defense any more
– Finally something on Giroud. He seems totally out of touch and lacking confidence. I think France does not have any other option but to play him in the finals as well, as he has a strong physical presence – both on the ground as well as on air. However, so far, France has been able to make up for a lack of a striker just because of its sheer quality in attacking midfielders. It remains to be seen whether they can have the same success for one more match – but definitely, they are now the favourites to lift the cup once more after Zinedin Zidane’s 1998 world cup!