In the first competitive match for France in the wake of the disappointment of the Euro 2016 Final, Didier Deschamps’ charges traveled to Minsk to face a feisty Belarus side. Although their opponents are unlikely to progress to the World Cup in Russia in 2018, they nevertheless provided a stern test, and the scoreless draw between the two was probably a fair result.
On the back of an encouraging 3-1 win in Italy, Deschamps elected to make few changes to his side, drafting in Moussa Sissoko in place of Blaise Matuidi, the formation more closely resembling a 4-2-3-1 than an orthodox 4-3-3. However, like the Italy match, there also seemed to be some lingering confusion about the players’ roles and spacing, and against such a feisty group, there was a worrying lack of synchronicity.
Steve Mandanda – 6
Rarely touched the ball, but was sharp in clearing his lines in the wake of a few nervy passes in the early going. Will be happy with the clean sheet, if not his teammates’ profligacy.
Djibril Sidibe – 5
A willing runner, but like his fellow full back, found himself in the sort of trouble better opponents could punish. Showeddecent endeavour with his crosses, but hasn’t done enough in these two matches to make the position his own with Corchia and Jallet lurking.
Raphael Varane – 7
As poor as the Real Madrid player was against Italy, he was equally as brilliant here. His long passing was also sublime, including a gilt-edged ball for Giroud just after the half hour, but his aerial dominance was the real star of the show. An accomplished performance for the young captain.
Laurent Koscielny – 6.5
Didn’t deliver the sort of flashy performance his partner did, but once again reliable. Showed the odd bit of impetus to get forward, which forced a bit more caution from the hosts.
Layvin Kurzawa – 4.5
Will be glad of Digne’s current club situation and the growth needed by the likes of Jordan Amavi and Benjamin Mendy. Was decent enough in defence, but did little to aid Martial down the left flank, showing little of the aggression that was on display in Bari.
Paul Pogba – 5.5
Tested the Belarussian ‘keeper from distance a few times, but could have done better to involve his teammates. Like Kante, showed a good work rate, but also like the Chelsea player, had some issues against an aggressive press from the hosts.
N’Golo Kante – 6
Displayed his usual energy in terms of tackling, but also struggled on occasion against a high press, as equally likely to lose the ball after winning it back as he was to start a counterattack.
Moussa Sissoko – 4.5
His energy, so important against other top sides, was wasted here, as a flick for Giroud was his only real attacking contribution. Played on the right side, Dembele from the start or the injured Kingsley Coman will be a better option against lesser sides.
Antoine Griezmann – 5.5
Operated as a de facto second striker, and created some decent opportunities for his teammates in the early going. Became frustrated and selfish as the match wore on, too often shooting from tough angles instead of seeking to build play.
Anthony Martial – 5
Struggled in a wide role, as he played much more like an orthodox winger than the player who frequently cut inside against Italy. Did play a few decent crosses, but his directness was often wasted against Belarus’ press.
Olivier Giroud – 4.5
Arsenal fans will surely be familiar with the trope of inconsistency from the former Montpellier man. Was presented with at least three good chances, but failed to take any of them, being badly let down by a poor first touch throughout.
Dimitri Payet – 6
Match commentary suggested he is still a distance from being fit, and given his influence here, it is hard to counter than line of thought. His free kicks were the basis of some of France’s best chances, but he was sometimes lacking in open play.
Ousmane Dembele – 5.5
Was given a decent twenty minutes, and showed how his energy and unpredictability can influence a match. Still lacks the quality necessary to break down a resolute defence, but his confidence should continue to grow.
Kevin Gameiro – No grade