Eric Devin takes a look at Les Bleus following France’s disappointing 0-0 draw with Switzerland.
With progression already assured and only needing a draw to advance as group winners, Didier Deschamps sent out a somewhat experimental side against Switzerland this evening.
N’Golo Kante, Dimitri Payet, Olivier Giroud and Blaise Matuidi all started on the bench, with Moussa Sissoko, Kingsley Coman, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Yohan Cabaye taking their places. Cabaye played the defensive midfield role, while Sissoko played as the left-sided central midfielder, allowing Paul Pogba to operate from the left.
Coman was nominally deployed on the right but frequently swapped flanks to find pockets of space, Antoine Griezmann playing as more of a second striker than a winger.
Despite some flashes of brilliance from an improved Pogba, a scoreless draw was the result, which sees France finish on seven points and top the group.To not score was surely frustrating for Deschamps and his charges, but some confidence could likewise be gained from a second consecutive clean sheet and not having conceded from open play over the three matches of the group stage.
The Swiss had played well in pockets, having the bulk of the ball but not getting enough going forward from their fullbacks and a pair of tiring wide men in Xherdan Shaqiri and Admir Mehmedi. On the whole, though, the result was largely dour, France having done little in these three matches to answer the same questions that were being asked before the tournament’s start.
Even with that being the case, though, it is still a worthwhile exercise to examine the players’ performances, as there were some pleasant surprises.
Hugo Lloris – 6.5
No saves to make, but the captain did show some fine athleticism to cover up a stray pass from Evra. Also did well to command the area during a flurry of Swiss corners in the second half.
Bacary Sagna – 6
There had been some suggestion that Christophe Jallet could feature in this match, but Deschamps opted for an unchanged back four, so as to increase the quarter’s familiarity with each other. Sagna was limited going forward but effective at the back on the evening, if not a bit anonymous.
Adil Rami – 6
Picked up a needless yellow card for a speculative overhead kick from a corner, but looked better than in the first two matches. Good positioning and did well to cover for Koscielny on more than one occasion.
Laurent Koscielny – 6
Some positional issues , and his passing wasn’t as sharp as it had been against Romania. Also needlessly booked, for a clash with Stephan Lichtsteiner. Did do well to play ball out of trouble with his feet, but failed to foster any counterattacks with passing.
Patrice Evra – 6
A nervy moment with a poor backpass aside, Evra turned in a generally more disciplined performance, even if his involvement going forward was, like that of Sagna, fairly limited. Still looks to have a mistake in him, but communication looks to be improving.
Moussa Sissoko – 6.5
Asked to operate in a more defensive role than at club level, the Newcastle player did fairly well, linking well Griezmann on occasion and turning in a few sparkling dribbles as well. Crossing was poor, but gave Pogba license to roam when necessary.
Yohan Cabaye – 7
Unlikely to displace Kante at the base of midfield, Cabaye nevertheless turned in a surprisingly strong and focused performance. Was let off on more than one occasion for questionable tackles, but also made a few vital interceptions. Had his passing been better, could have been in contention for a start in the next round.
Paul Pogba – 7.5
Played to the best of his abilities over the first forty minutes or so, and even if he did tire in the second half, was still France’s man of the match. Unlucky to not have scored, and his range of passing was spectacular.
Antoine Griezmann – 5
The poorest effort yet from Atletico’s star man, Griezmann’s insistence on taking up central positions, rather than drawing Switzerland’s defense out wide, was the root of much of France’s frustrations in attack. His penchant for cutting inside works with Benzema as the center forward, but with the more static Gignac, the team needs more width. In real danger of being dropped for the next stage, only redemption coming from generally fine deliveries from corners.
Andre-Pierre Gignac – 5
Had a few decent moments, including a fine one-two with Griezmann, but wasn’t convincing enough to permanently displace Giroud. Did show good energy to move wide, but lack of pace and crossing ability made these forays awkward.
Kingsley Coman – 6
A tireless runner throughout the night, was unfortunately the only player attempting to create any width, leading to a quixotic match. Did well to draw a handful of fouls and get by players, but his first touch was also lacking at times.
Dimitri Payet (on for Coman at 62′) – 5.5
An ineffective cameo from Payet, whose quest for space was frustrated by the lack of movement from Griezmann. Too often looked for his own shot rather than trying to create for his teammates.
Blaise Matuidi (on for Griezmann at 76′) – 5.5
An anonymous evening for the PSG man, who did enough to shore up the midfield with the Swiss threatening. Will likely be asked to start from the off, and his usual energy will be needed.