We run the rule on how the French fared last night as they lost a crucial UEFA Nations League clash with the Netherlands.
Hugo Lloris: 8
There aren’t many times you’ll see a goalkeeper concede two goals and still be outstanding enough to win Man of the Match, but such was the enormity of Hugo Lloris’ saves tonight that there was no other choice but to give him the award. If it wasn’t for the captain, this could have been a cricket score in favour of the Dutch, but thankfully from France’s point of view, the Tottenham man decided to have one of his better performances and made sure the two-goal deficit was kept as low as it was.
Benjamin Pavard: 5
I usually praise Pavard for his defensive work, claiming that even if he doesn’t attack as much as he perhaps should, he makes up for it with his work in the backline. Tonight, we saw nothing from Pavard. Nothing at all, no attacking threat or even any defensive help as the wide duo of Ryan Babel and Memphis Depay gave him nightmares. The Stuttgart man looked sluggish and didn’t seem confident taking on anyone who possessed even the slightest form of pace, and it was poor to see.
Raphael Varane: 5
The usually so impressive and imperious Real Madrid defender didn’t look himself tonight, but it seemed to be a general curse on the backline, with everyone forgetting how to play the way that Didier Deschamps had drawn out of them at the World Cup, but defensively they all looked lost at sea, including Varane. Could he have done better on the first Netherlands goal? At first glance you would say no, because the ball was taken from him in mid-air, but the Varane we all know and enjoy would usually scream for the ball and clear it, like you saw his opposite number Virgil Van Dijk do time and time again for the Dutch last night. Perhaps it was just a bad day in the office, but it wasn’t a good look for him.
Presnel Kimpembe: 4
We all know that Presnel Kimpembe is a very talented defender, but he hasn’t made the jump from club football to international football very well at all. In fact, since Samuel Umtiti went down with his injury and the PSG man took his place, you could argue that Kimpembe hasn’t put in a decent performance for Les Bleus. Like his defensive partner Varane, something just didn’t click. He looked slow, unable to deal with the Dutch attack and just seemed all over the place.
Lucas Digne: 4
Everton fans typically say about Lucas Digne that he is great going forward, but sometimes forgets to defend. Tonight was one of those nights and a perfect encapsulation of what Digne is all about. You’d often see him down the flanks, trying to whip a ball into the box (which was usually empty), but then he just wouldn’t track back fully. If he did, he didn’t do so with any urgency or speed, which was especially troublesome when your opponents who are breaking on you are blessed with exceptional pace! Poor from Digne, and hasn’t suggested that he’s up to the task of being a suitable replacement for the injured Benjamin Mendy or Lucas Hernandez.
N’Golo Kanté: 5
Another case of a bad day at the office, but Kanté just didn’t look comfortable out there in Feyenoord tonight. Before going into any negatives, I must point out that on a handful of occasions, I was surprised by the long passes Kanté pulled off to the wings. We know he’s talented on the ball, but it was nice to see him change his range from time to time, a further improvement to an already exceptionally well-rounded midfielder. That was about it for the positives, because the game just seemed to pass him by. The pace of the game, surprisingly, caught Kanté out and he just didn’t appear good enough.
Steven N’Zonzi: 4
If you could sum up the performance of N’Zonzi up in one word, what would it be? Poor, would be my choice for this one, because my goodness me N’Zonzi looked out of place in this midfield. I know, he wouldn’t have started if Paul Pogba was fit and that’s fine, he isn’t the starting midfielder but is there any reason why Tanguy N’Dombélé, who looked more energetic and tried harder in his cameo than N’Zonzi, should be sitting on the bench? He wouldn’t have made the stupid mistake that N’Zonzi did for the opening Dutch goal, deciding to head the ball backwards to an unmarked Ryan Babel (to his credit, it was an impressive assist by N’Zonzi, shame he wasn’t on the same team as Babel).
Kylian Mbappé: 5
You probably won’t say this very often in the future, but Mbappe was anonymous tonight. Once the young winger realised he couldn’t get anywhere by simply just using his pace, he looked like he ran out of ideas, which was very strange for someone who has shown that he is a very clever player against different kinds of defences. The only point of note from Mbappé’s game was his clash with de Ligt of Holland, which was probably a glimpse into the future of two stars of the game.
Antoine Griezmann: 5
Tonight, he just couldn’t get anything going. He couldn’t find the space to create anything for the wide players, nor could he feed off of whatever Olivier Giroud was knocking down, because Giroud wasn’t knocking anything down, so Griezmann had no service to work with and didn’t create all that many opportunities either. It was poor from Griezmann, but there wasn’t much more he could have done.
Blaise Matuidi: 5
Other than energy, what does Matuidi actually bring to this France side? Experience, perhaps. Tactical flexibility? Maybe, but nothing in terms of match-winning ability or the ability to change a game with a single pass or goal. Those days are gone for Matuidi, who last night was limited to bounding up and down that left flank. He can still add experience to this France side, if that’s what Deschamps is worried about, but he can do that from the bench as well as he can do it on the pitch.
Olivier Giroud: 4
Normally, I defend Giroud. Sure, he doesn’t always score but he always helps the team. Tonight showed that if he isn’t up against a defender he can bully in the air, he doesn’t do anything for this French side. He adds effort and never gives up in his task which is admirable, but he needs to find another dimension to his game if his main hold up play style isn’t working, especially when you’ve got Van Dijk marking you. I’m a Giroud fan, but you can’t put a positive spin on his performance tonight.
Moussa Sissoko for Matuidi: 5
Added a tad bit more energy than Matuidi, but in typical Sissoko fashion he undid any good work by giving away a sloppy penalty in the last minute.
Ousmane Dembélé for Giroud: 5
There’s something not right with Dembélé, and not in the same way that there was something wrong with Varane tonight. Dembélé’s performances have been poor for quite some time, but he doesn’t look like he’s improving, even in his brief cameos whenever he plays for the national team.
Tanguy N’Dombélé for N’Zonzi: N/A
Not on long enough to give detailed analysis on his overall performance.