The bad series of the Blues continues. After five consecutive victorious matches between September 2021 and March 2022, the French team has not won for four games. Monday, at the Stade de France, the players of Didier Deschamps were unable to win against Croatia (1-0). The Tricolores even played their worst half – the first – despite an already sluggish performance against Denmark (2-1) in the defeat at the start of this 2022 Nations League campaign on June 3.
Despite the return as holder of Kylian Mbappé, savior in Austria on Friday (1-1), French footballers lost for the second time in four outings. With two points, they logically occupy the last place in their group, archi-dominated by attractive Danes (9 points) just ahead of the Croats, 2nd with 7 points. They are already eliminated from the race for the Final Four and will not be able to keep their trophy obtained last year.
Even if the coach recalled several times during press conferences that this competition was not the objective of the year [the World Cup will begin in November in Qatar], that he was not helped by injuries (departure of N’Golo Kanté, absence of Paul Pogba) or the fatigue of some of his players, he would certainly have done without such a record. Les Bleus had never lost to Croatia in nine games: six wins (including the 2018 World Cup final) and three draws.
Last of their group
No success in four games, the former Marseillais has not often experienced such negative sequences. We remember five draws in a row between the one against Hungary on June 19, 2021 and the one against Ukraine on September 4, 2021 during the World Cup qualifiers. Without forgetting in the middle the elimination on penalties in the round of 16 of the European championship against Switzerland after a tie 3 to 3 (June 28, 2021). Between March 26 and June 13, 2015, the Blues had also been beaten three times for a single victory. Another negative statistic, the Blues had not lost two games in a row at home since 1993 and two fatal defeats against Israel and Bulgaria.
At the Stade de France, despite a warm atmosphere, events turned in the opposite direction from the start. On a rather light and involuntary contact from Ibrahima Konate on Ante Budimir, referee Orel Grinfeld whistled a penalty for the visitors. Luka Modric opened the scoring despite the dive from Mike Maignan, preferred to Hugo Lloris in the French goals (5th, 1-0).
The tricolor midfielder – made up in particular of more hard-working than creative profiles – was struggling to take the game on his own. The two OM players, Mattéo Guendouzi and Boubacar Kamara who signed at Aston Villa, were not to their advantage. The latter was also replaced at the break by Aurélien Tchouaméni, a new Real Madrid player. In difficulty in a right-back position which is not the one he prefers, Jules Kounde was also the victim of the lackluster performance of his team. Benjamin Pavard came into play at the end of the first 45 minutes.
Faced with Croats who were leading in the score, catchy and well folded in defense, the French team was unable to offer quality collective movements, nor to find tactical solutions. The bad choices multiplied, like a cross directly into touch or easy passes missed or played back without taking risks.
The best chance for Deschamps’ proteges came after an individual flash: Christopher Nkunku got a block and his spontaneous strike worried goalkeeper Ivica Ivusic (28th). In the 35th, it was the return in extremis of a Madrid European champion on another Madrid European champion, Luka Modric on Karim Benzema, which deprived the Blues of the possibility of an equalizer. The final tricolor push in stoppage time in this first act, accompanied by a not resentful public, did nothing. Lucas Digne was blocked twice and at the last moment by the Croatian defense.
More dynamic and enterprising in the second half, the French players created many dangerous situations but few real scoring opportunities. Each time Mbappé or Benzema took the ball, shivers ran through the spectators. Each time, a foot, head or thigh from the Balkan players prevented the locals from equalizing. The entry of Antoine Griezmann for his 108th selection, as much as a certain Zinedine Zidane, did not change anything. He too is going through difficult times, like his selection.
“We know that this French team should not be in this place. It’s an obligation to win tomorrow, we’re all aware of that,” Presnel Kimpembe, who wore the captain’s armband in place of Hugo Lloris, assured on Sunday. His teammates did not find the solution to please the Parisian defender. And it was on the contrary a header against his camp from a Croatian defender who almost gave the equalizer to the Blues at the end of additional time.
Yes, Didier Deschamps was able to test new players, without much satisfaction with the exception of Nkunku, author of two assists and still stirring this evening. “We are at the end of the season, there are also the small problems of the previous match, we must take this into account. The positive is the playing time that I can give, he pleaded before facing Croatia, This remains the truth of the moment, it will not necessarily be that of September and November, but I have a little more of answers. »
Two games before the World Cup
Yes, he was able to work a 4-4-2 system after successfully trying a 3-5-2 system in recent months. “We don’t just have one system. Just because we played with four defenders for two games doesn’t mean the three-defender system is trash. It’s rather interesting in the sense that we are less predictable for the opponent ”, he had put into perspective before the match.
If the coach is in his role, the results of this marathon in June remain rather starved. Especially since it will be a question of quickly regaining confidence before flying off to defend his title on the shores of the Persian Gulf, from November 22 against Australia, the first opponent of the next World Cup.
For this, there will be only two games left shortly after the resumption of the season, on September 22 and 25, against Austria and Denmark. The Blues would be well advised to offer something else, to return to success and avoid relegation to the second division of the League of Nations. An unexpected misadventure that would be bad for a team of this standing.