We run the rule on how the French fared during their 2-1 victory over the Netherlands at the Stade de France last night.
Alphonse Areola – 5
After a very impressive night between the sticks against Germany last time out, Areola had a rather quiet evening in comparison despite conceding. He will probably be disappointed in himself that he didn’t keep out Ryan Babel’s effort, but with that being the only major chance he really had to deal with, I suspect a lapse in concentration could be to blame.
Benjamin Pavard – 6
Pavard may not garner the same amount of headlines as some of his teammates, but he is always one of the most reliable players in the team and will very rarely slip up. Attacking wise, he never backs down from a challenge and will always try and create but his strength lays in defence, where his calmness on the ball and experience in the centre helped him out last night whenever the likes of Ryan Babel and Memphis Depay wanted to attack at pace. It looks unlikely that he’ll be out of the starting XI any time soon.
Raphael Varane – 6
Despite this game being somewhat quiet for the Real Madrid man, he didn’t have all that much to deal with (with the exception of maybe one or two incidents with Memphis Depay). A couple of times in the second half Depay tried to attack him with pace, but the glaring mis-step was when Gini Wijnaldum beat both Varane and Umtiti but missed the target. There wasn’t much to pick out of Varane’s performance considering it was a rather quiet one by his standards.
Samuel Umtiti – 7
Umtiti didn’t get too much more involved in the game as his partner Varane, but his presence roaming in the first half cut out quite a lot of attacks and his ability to defuse Dutch set pieces meant that he stood out a bit more than Varane. Umtiti’s ability to step ahead of the defensive line – almost as another midfielder – is often something that wasn’t mentioned during the game last night but it did show itself well in the first 45 minutes.
Lucas Hernandez – 6
Another solid and standard performance for Hernandez who arguably had an important moment in the second half that really didn’t have much to do with him at all! The left back was replaced by Benjamin Mendy in the second half and the lazy defending of the Manchester City man allowed Kenny Tete to get in a first time cross for the Dutch goal, showing that while Mendy is a much better attacker, Hernandez’s defensive qualities sometimes go unnoticed. For the large part of the game, Hernandez was on the attack and didn’t add much, but defensively he is still very important to this side.
Paul Pogba – 6
The Paul Pogba we saw at the World Cup seems to have taken a step back this season, with tonight showing that while he has the capabilities to burst forward and take control of the game, it wasn’t really needed. Could he have done better? Sure, but for the most part his side controlled the game so he could only really sit back and let the forward players take the majority of the ball without losing the shape of the team. Was it a typical Pogba performance? No, but by no means was it a poor one. He was well disciplined and did his job well, something that has often been a criticism for him in the past.
N’Golo Kanté – 6.5
Kanté was roaming the midfield area a bit more tonight along with Matuidi and Pogba, but with France having more of the ball it was more about keeping possession and feeding it to the attacker for Kanté tonight, something he has gotten used to a bit more under Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea.
Kylian Mbappé – 7
The kid is special, but time after time he delivers. Yes, his goal may have only been a tap in, but he did show good positioning and anticipation to get into the right area to score in the first place and while most of the team tonight perhaps played 70% of the game with their foot off the pedal, Mbappé still caused problems for the Dutch backline when he really went into full flow. He was allowed more space in his right hand role, and a few times he got in behind to create slight chances, but against a very deep laying Dutch team, it was hard for him.
Antoine Griezmann – 6
But what Mbappé does with the ball is usually fed off from whatever Griezmann has delivered for him. The relationship between the two has grown so much in the last few games and while Griezmann seems to thrive off playing in a partnership – whether that’s with Diego Costa at Atletico, or Olivier Giroud up top for Les Bleus – he seems to have a really good understanding with Mbappé as the two are always moving and always looking to cause havoc. He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but Griezmann still played quite well in the first half before being taken off.
Blaise Matuidi – 6.5
A quiet night for Matuidi who’s role was to cover for forward runners and to provide energy in the middle, a role he performed well (as usual). It does feel that as time goes on, Matuidi’s role in this team will continue to change but as tonight showed, he will always put in a good shift no matter who he’s up against, with an exceptional assist early on.
Olivier Giroud – 6
A really well taken goal was exactly what Giroud needed and deserved following his sacrifices he’s made to make the team perform better, but while he may have gotten the goal he was absent for a large portion of the match. That in wasn’t entirely his fault though. He was victim of the growing relationship between Griezmann and Mbappé and against a team like Holland who wanted to sit very deep, there wasn’t much Giroud could do to be very effective tonight. Well, apart from beat Virgil Van Dijk to grab a winning goal…
Benjamin Mendy for Lucas Hernandez – 5
A fantastic cross for the Giroud winner, but defensively still somewhat suspect, as shown by the Dutch goal but overall a fairly usual Benjamin Mendy cameo.
Steven N’Zonzi for Antoine Griezmann – N/A
Ousmane Dembélé for Olivier Giroud – N/A