France kicked off their World Cup campaign against Australia today, winning 2-1 in meek fashion.
Hugo Lloris – 6
The captain has been under intense scrutiny going into this tournament, yet one could argue that he was the most consistent player for France today. He may have conceded from the penalty spot but in the few moments during which he was called into action – notably the own goal-threatening flick on from Tolisso in the first half – Lloris was calm and able to deal with danger. Perhaps the only player to come out of this game with credit?
Benjamin Pavard – 4
Right-back is perhaps an unnatural position for Pavard, who is without doubt one of the most talented young defenders in Europe, but he was quite disappointing today. I won’t be as critical as certain commentators were today on the young star, but Pavard was unadventurous and lost going forward in the right-back position. He looked unsure whether to attack at pace against a deep defence or to sit back and presume that the three forwards would occupy the wide-right area. One could say that he was a bit too reserved in this game, but it’s all a learning process for someone so young.
Raphael Varane – 6
Varane with a relatively assured performance, unflappable and confident in his ability despite not really being tested an awful amount.
Samuel Umtiti – 3
Well, where do we start with Samuel Umtiti. Lets put a positive spin on this, if Umtiti was playing in the NBA, his handball would’ve been a good slam dunk! In all seriousness, it baffles me to think of what was going through his mind when he handled the ball that produced the penalty? Apart from that idiotic brain freeze, Umtiti’s touch was a little loose.
Lucas Hernandez – 6
If I had a penny for every time Hernandez went down on a soft touch and yelled, I’d be a rich man. His actual performance was defensively pragmatic and at times even impressive, but going forward, he did not offer a constant and thus probably means he won’t be playing the next game for France.
N’Golo Kanté – 6.5
A relatively masterful performance from Kanté, sitting deep in the midfield. One can only assume that Deschamps wanted him to protect the back four but it restricted Kanté’s energy further up the pitch, and it hindered him setting the pace for the French midfield to press. He was solid in his role, as he always is, but I can’t help but feel there is more inside him that can be unleashed if he’s given a more open role.
Paul Pogba – 4.5
A lot of people on social media tend to avoid criticising Paul Pogba whenever he’s judged to have played poorly. Sometimes he does get unfairly criticised, but when he plays like he did today, it’s impossible to gloss over what we witnessed. Yes, he sparked the two moves that led to Les Bleus’ goals.
But otherwise, he was slow, wasteful, ineffective and lethargic. It is fast-reaching the point time in his career where Pogba is becoming an enigma of a midfielder. We still don’t truly know what his best position is, we still don’t know which system suits him best and we still don’t really know if he will fulfil he supposed destiny. Going off of today, those questions remain unanswered.
Corentin Tolisso – 3
The Bayern midfielder had played himself into this starting XI following his impressive displays in the warm up friendlies, but he was the total opposite of the player who we saw against Ireland, Italy and the USA today. Tolisso was slow on the ball and slow to find the forwards, with the midfield positions that he would usually occupy being filled instead by Pogba. He didn’t seem to cope well at all with the intense Australian pressing and was essentially taken out of the game – he just couldn’t get a foothold.
Kylian Mbappé – 4.5
In the first half, Mbappé was the only France forward to make a difference and make any kind of chance albeit that chance was literally within the first two minutes. As the game went on it was unfortunate to see Mbappé restricted to only a few bursts of pace on the flanks and he couldn’t affect the game in the manner we’ve grown accustomed to over the past two years.
Antoine Griezmann – 3
It’s been a strange week for Antoine Griezmann. Firstly he put out that silly documentary on his ‘decision’ to renew his Atletico contract, and now his performance today was very unlike the Griezmann we’ve become familiar with these past few years. Yes, he scored the opener from the penalty spot but he didn’t have a single clear cut chance of note until that moment and he couldn’t manoeuvre any space to make himself available. Poor from the main man up front for France, but he will be the first to recognise he wasn’t good enough today and that he simply needs to improve.
Ousmane Dembélé – 2
We were all wary of Dembélé’s selection going into the World Cup because his previous performances for Les Bleus have been quite underwhelming. Unfortunately for the talented Barcelona winger, today was no different. He attacked the Australian back line with pace on a handful of occasions and despite being taken out on one occasion by one of the opposition defenders, he never really had the luck in attack as he may have wanted. Australia figured out quite early on that to stop Dembélé you just had to be a bit physical, and he didn’t react well.