Despite some unnecessary nerves and some obvious ring-rust having not played a competitive fixture in nearly two years, France got the job done Friday evening against a resolute Romania. There were no surprises vis-a-vis the starting eleven, nor the tactics employed by Didier Deschamps, only in how an energetic Romania managed to give France more to mull over than they might have wished.
The 2-1 margin was probably fair in the end, even if a stunning solo goal by Dimitri Payet and a penalty were involved. On this evidence, France are still favorites to win the group, but finishing with five points looks as likely an outcome as nine. Bearing this in mind, here are the evening’s player ratings.
Hugo Lloris – 6.5
The Tottenham man did well to get down quickly to save from a Romanian corner early on. A goal at that stage could’ve spelled disaster for the hosts, and Lloris’ quick reflexes were important at that point. He could’ve done better with the penalty, but also provided a reliable outlet under pressure for Rami and Koscielny.
Bacary Sagna – 5.5
Right back almost by default, even at 33, Sagna was less than impressive on the evening. His communication with Rami was poor, and his man-marking on set pieces was also lacking. Going forward proved somewhat redemptive, however, his delivery being responsible for Griezmann’s header against the post.
Adil Rami – 5.5
Romania don’t have the paciest set of players in attack, and it’s a good thing, because Rami is woefully lacking in that department. Again, his communication with Sagna wasn’t at a high level as the two were seen barking at each other on more than one occasion, but his physicality was useful, as was his anticipation.
Laurent Koscielny – 6
The left-sided center back easily came out of the match as the member of the back four who acquitted himself best, even if that is faint praise. He reliably dealt with Romania’s long balls, and his own passing was a pleasant bonus. His movement to cover Evra was also fine, which freed up the Juventus man to deal with the dangerous Cristian Sapunaru.
Patrice Evra – 4
As much as Payet is an easy pick for Man of the Match, Evra is likewise a clear pick for France’s worst performer. Any player can give away a penalty, but Evra’s tackle on that play was frankly lazy, especially as the situation wasn’t especially dangerous.
Was also readily found out by Romania playing an overload with Sapunaru and Popa, which had the knock-on effect of limiting Blaise Matuidi going forward. A disappointing performance, but Deschamps has few alternatives.
Paul Pogba – 6
When Pogba played well, he was brilliant, spraying long balls over the top with aplomb as France sought to utilize the pace of Griezmann and Giroud. But when he drifted, as he did for much of the latter part of the first half, he was a negligible presence.
His first touch was problematic at times, even if his dribbling was generally sound. Played some nice combinations with Payet, but needs to display more focus in the coming weeks.
N’Golo Kante – 7
The best of France’s midfield three, easily vindicating Didier Deschamps’ decision to opt for him over Yohan Cabaye, even if he looked a bit nervous in the early going. Broke up play when Romania tried to play on the counter and did well to pick out France’s attackers as well. Committed just one foul and was a fine shield in front of a somewhat ropy back four.
Blaise Matuidi – 5
A disappointing night for the PSG midfielder, who might be showing the strain of a very long season. Admittedly his opportunities to get forward were limited owing to his covering for Evra and Payet, but his influence at the sharp end of France’s attack was sorely missed.
He did do well to earn a few free kicks, always a bonus given the presence of Payet, but generally seemed uninspired, despite his running.
Antoine Griezmann – 5
Griezmann and Giroud often looked to be operating as a front two at times, the Atletico Madrid man frequently taking up central positions. He came close to opening the scoring with a header against the post in the match’s early stages, but his overall effectiveness was somewhat limited by his defensive work.
His pace and runs were important in creating space for Giroud, but his own first touch was often not in evidence. Still probably deserves to start the next match given his strong season, but had Coman been more impressive, Deschamps could’ve had a tough choice.
Olivier Giroud – 6.5
Obviously, Giroud’s goal skews this rating slightly higher, but despite his raft of missed chances, he still had a decent match. His tireless running put him in dangerous positions consistently, and his one-touch passing and hold-up play were fine indeed.
Skewing two free headers wide is frustrating, though, and Gignac could get more of a look-in next time around, especially given Giroud’s unnecessary booking.
Dimitri Payet – 8.5
The only player in the squad, not to be cowed by the occasion, Payet was simply magnificent. His constant movement saw him popping up on both flanks, as well as centrally once Coman replaced Griezmann, playing slick one-touch football in style.
He also delivered some fine crosses, and scored a peach of a goal. His set pieces weren’t quite to their usual level, but a minor issue in an otherwise superb outing.
Kingsley Coman – 6
Took a bit to find his footing, both figuratively and literally, but grew into the match after replacing Griezmann. His movement was important in creating space centrally for Payet, and his pace and energy did much to stretch Romania’s previously compact defense. Still not likely to start, but showed his effectiveness as a change of pace.
Anthony Martial – 5.5
Besides one bright run down the left flank, Martial’s involvement in his fifteen-odd minutes was fairly muted. His pace means he continues to be a threat, further stretching Romania’s tiring defense, but any of those who had seen him as a potential starter have realized Deschamps’ wisdom.
Moussa Sissoko – n/a
Could’ve added another goal after being sent clear through on the break, but fired over. An assured presence in keeping the ball, but really not on the pitch long enough to warrant a mark.
Didier Deschamps – 6.5
Gave no surprises and showed faith in his tactics despite a mis-firing Giroud. His decisions to pull Griezmann and Pogba with the match still level were bold, but given the way Romania’s midfield was opened up by the introductions of the pacy Martial and Coman, there surely has to be a level of vindication on his part.
His decision to opt for Rami still looks a dangerous one, though perhaps the Sevilla man and the rest of the back four can continue to improve, as their performances have improved, however incrementally.