Get French Football News brings you its analysis from the Stade de France as to how Les Bleus’ players performed in their 2-0 victory over the Netherlands.
Hugo Lloris: 7.5
The Tottenham goalkeeper and French captain had little to do in the way of dealing with difficult efforts on his goal from the opposition, but he was commanding in the box when the Dutch had set piece opportunities and made some routine saves in a solid manner, notably against van Persie.
Patrice Evra: 6.5
The left back was only on the field for 45 minutes, eventually being replaced by debutant Lucas Digne but gave a relatively good account of himself, despite being dominated on two occasions by Dutch winger Promes, leaving Evra exposed. Going forward he also contributed comparatively little to what he is usually able to muster up when playing behind Ribery, but that is due to the partnership those two individuals have built up over the years more than anything else.
Eliaquim Mangala: 8
Mangala only played due to a last minute hamstring injury that Laurent Koscielny suffered during training but the Porto man certainly took his chance yesterday. Strong and powerful in the air, he completely shut Robin van Persie out of the equation in terms of the Dutchman being able to get any dangerous shots away. Mangala, who’s partnership with Varane was fluent despite it being the first time the pair have ever started alongside each other, was also a threat going forward and had two headed chances in the Dutch box. An assured display.
Raphael Varane: 7.5
In truth, Varane was given very little to do in the way of defensive work but for a few routine clearances and interceptions which he executed with aplomb as per usual. The Real Madrid man is now in prime position to be a starter for France in the World Cup; an incredible achievement considering the former Lens man is just 20 years old.
Mathieu Debuchy: 6.5
Newcastle’s fullback contributed to the France attack on multiple occasions throughout his 87 minutes on the pitch last night, putting in some dangerous crosses although none of them directly led to goals. He was vulnerable occasionally at the back and was twice embarrassed by the Dutch winger Boëtius in the first half and twice by Depay in the second. If there are any obvious weaknesses in this current French set up it is certainly in the full-back department and, while Deschamps has a soft spot for Debuchy, one cannot help wondering whether Sagna would be a smarter choice from a defensive point of view.
Yohan Cabaye: 6.5
Had a relatively quiet game by his standards in a French shirt, at least offensively speaking. Playing in the deeper role of the midfield trio, Cabaye kept Strootman relatively quiet. The PSG man did look a little frustrated at times but is a player that is held in high regard by Deschamps yet again and will be expected, barring injury, to travel to Brazil with France despite his current inability to work his way into the PSG starting XI.
Paul Pogba: 7
Another impressive performance from Juventus’ central midfielder, who was the most creative of the midfield trio in terms of playing balls over the top to Benzema and in terms of releasing the wingers. Also showed some lovely skill at times but failed to ever get close enough to the opposition penalty area to have a chance on goal himself.
Blaise Matuidi: 8.5
Omnipresent. The PSG midfielder is starting to really convince the world of French football that he could well be one of the best players in his position this country has ever seen. Now that may sound dramatic but Matuidi’s ability to affect every aspect of the game, whether it is going forward to score with one of the most intelligently improvised finishes of 2014 or the immense tank he has at his disposal when it comes to tracking back and winning the ball off the likes of Strootman, as he did on multiple occasions, Matuidi excels. Our commentator last night referred to him as a ‘Duracell bunny’ and while that may seem like a childish comparison it is a rather good one. Matuidi played a slightly more forward role last night, as he as recently been doing for PSG, and really showed the Paris public that he has many qualities going forward as he does sitting in front of the defence. He was influential in conducting the quick French tempo in the first half which enabled Les Bleus to exploit a slow and weak Dutch defence.
Antoine Griezmann: 6
A lot of people will defend Antoine Griezmann for an unremarkable debut, simply because it was his first time on the highest international stage but at this phase in the preparation for the World Cup, I don’t feel that that is acceptable. His weakness in character showed last night, often allowing teammates to take the ball off of him mid-attack and failing to take up the offensive positions in the box that he should have, allowing Matuidi to get ahead of him often. This incidentally was how France’s 2nd goal was scored. Griezmann waited behind Matuidi and would have had the goal at his mercy but the PSG man’s killer touch made certain that France doubled their lead in any case, despite having a much harder job to do in terms of finishing that Griezmann would have had to do, looking at where they were positioned. Griezmann needed to come out all guns blazing last night to really throw down his claim to a spot in France’s World Cup squad and I really do not feel he did enough last night. Perhaps it is worth including the Real Sociedad attacker in the 30 man squad and giving him another opportunity to prove his credentials in France’s series of World Cup warmup matches but based on last night’s performance Deschamps will find it hard to crave out a spot for the player.
Mathieu Valbuena: 7
The petite Marseille man’s passing radar was working well last night as he sprayed passes left right and centre. While he struggled to make an impact when he was played down the left wing, his switch to the opposite side halfway through the first half seemed to bring France up into a whole new gear going forward. He provided an excellent cross for Blaise Matuidi’s second goal too.
Karim Benzema: 7.5
Karim Benzema had one of the best matches he has ever had in a French shirt last night. His newfound confidence, catalysed by his currently scintillating form for Real Madrid, was evidenced in the first half when he latched onto the end of a loss and high forward ball in the Dutch penalty area to hit a half-volley first time, sending the Dutch goalkeeper scrambling but to no avail. Benzema got his goal. Playing as a lone striker, Benzema was caught offside on several occasions by the Dutch side but I personally see that as a rather positive occurrence as it means that Benzema was actually making an conscientious effort to run the channels and give the midfield trio something to aim for. Often in the past 12 months, Benzema has looked disinterested in the French shirt but last night was different. There was a real hunger and drive about him and this was evident already in the manner in which he celebrated his opener. Benzema is coming into form just at the right time for Les Bleus.
Lucas Digne: 7
The 20 year old made his international debut last night after replacing Patrice Evra at half time. Digne was perhaps understandably cautious in his approach but this ensured that the Dutch were unable to exploit the right flank as they had done so when Evra was on the pitch. The PSG left-back put in a solid defensive shift and was determined to cover both ends of the pitch, although his attacking contributions lacked conviction. A solid start to Les Bleus life for the former Dogue.
Moussa Sissoko: 6.5
Was invisible when he did come on and seemed to be chasing shadows after replacing Pogba halfway through the second half. Simply could not tune himself to the game’s rhythm.
Olivier Giroud: 6.5
Played just a few minutes towards the end of the encounter and wasted an opportunity to shoot from just outside the area with a poor first touch.
Loic Remy: 6
Poor when he replaced Mathieu Valbuena around the hour mark. He lost control of the ball on several occasions whilst operating as a right winger and failed to produce a single acceptable cross from that right hand side.
Franck Ribery: 6.5
Had a quiet game by his standards. Never really got going and caused the French attack to fizzle out somewhat towards the end of the second half. He had one poor shot easily saved.