Romania increases Frances insecurities early but individual qualities prevail late
Already in the 2014 World Cup 1/3 of the main chances came from set pieces and almost the next big tournament would have started that way. Just 4 minutes in a corner kick gives France an early shock. That along with the general nervousness of an opening match in front of a home crowd gave France a very rough start to the game. Especially in the build up, the focus was on pure ball backup without actually develop forward play.
Typical scene in 22nd minutes: A midfielder plops down at the level of the center-back to form a 3 v 2 situation against the two strikers – but without a realistic chance of outplaying the strikers. (Marked in white) Koscielny can already position himself much higher on the pitch – with a chance to dribble in the back of the strikers, facing the midfield chain and creating a numeral advantage on the left wing. Instead, the ball is played from station to station (blue arrows) without gain space.
Second example: Pogba tipped off from his “10” position to receive the ball (white arrow). However, again without winning significant space and without real pressure on the opposing strikers. Pogba gets the pass and is marked relatively easy.
Better: It is better to start the situation with a dribbling (a quality which France due to the losses of mainly Varane is sorely lacking). Here Rami faces a striker with a dribbling – then Pogba drops back and receives the ball while in motion behind the strikers. He would then be marked by a midfielder and not from the striker (if at all). To make this work, Sagna has to take a higher position.
France Shows its Individual Quality
The first time France puts Pogba in a position behind the Romanian strikers the attack finishes in a great chance for France.
A quick pass through the two Romanian striker brings Pogba in possession in the center of the pitch. Surrounded by three opponents, but exert all no pressure, he opens up between the chains. The defensive line of Romania is not moved far enough to the left (yellow arrow). Stanciu loses Sagna out of sight. Pogba makes a perfect pass and usually this results in a goal.
The Second Half begins Just Like the First – Sloppy
Already after two minutes France forgets to pressure the player in possession even though the ball is near the box. The result is a really well-played chip-ball by Stanciu lead to the goal.
Overall, France showed improvement in second period. The attacking midfielder especially Griezmann (51. minute) moving much better between the chains and could be set by vertical openings various situations. This was made possible by an improved openings of the central midfielder, who stayed more beside and behind the Romanian strikers and thus could ensure better connections in the strikers. This results in the following dominant phase, as well as several good chances (55./56.).
If Giroud plays …
then his qualities must also be exploited. In consequence of the dominant phases France received corners and set pieces in the attacking half. In consequence of such a simple corner a cross handed France the 1:0 lead. Dispute or not when Giroud is in the squad, flanks and crosses are generally a good idea.
Stancui with the equalizer – Payet please take over…
After Romania came to compensate by a (completely unnecessary) penalty, it looked like disappointing start for Les Bleus. Even tough Frances eliminated every possible counterattack immediately with good insurance defense, the offensive strategies did not really provide. It took a single action from Payet, who ultimately gave an exellent debut to the home team..
Conclusion: One of the tournament favorites France presented itself over long distances too careless in their own construction and failed to create connections to the forward line. Ultimately individual actions and changes at half-time brought them on track. Really rely could the Blue-White-Reds on their insurance defense. Romania showed good defensive potential, without having been really tested.