On a night that saw France qualify for EURO 2020 before they kicked a ball due to results elsewhere in Group H, Les Bleus went to the top of their group after a laboured victory over Moldova, with the visitors taking a shock early lead. Here is now the French fared.
Steve Mandanda – 6
In for the injured captain Hugo Lloris, the Marseille man, who has been in excellent Ligue 1 form, made the right call not to come off his line in the build up to Rata’s surprise opener. Otherwise had little to nothing to do. Moved the ball quicker out of his hand & from goal kicks than Lloris tends to do for France, but that may have had something to do with the both going behind early and the nature of the opposition.
Benjamin Pavard – 6
Remains a strikingly limited and precocious talent. Showed good positional awareness to defend the French right flank with aplomb throughout the match, but the accuracy of his crossing remains wayward and his tendency for conservatism in the opponent’s final third frustrating, especially when playing against a side as limited as Moldova. Managed a couple of decent balls in for Giroud in the second half. A night like this reminds viewers that Pavard spent his teenage years as a central defender.
Raphaël Varane – 6
Did not show enough recovery pace to aid Lenglet when the latter made a series of mistakes leading to the Moldovan goal, but did grab the equaliser courtesy of his fox-in-the-box mentality after Griezmann’s free-kick was half-cleared. Tonight, what stood out about the Madrid man was his leadership – the only individual both trying to rallying the troops and being obviously listened to by his colleagues after the early setback.
Clément Lenglet – 4
A series of bizarre cushioned and inaccurate headers attempting to control an initial long ball from Moldova allowed Rata to take advantage and slot home. His confidence levels never really recovered after the early mistake and spent the rest of the 90 minutes being both hesitant and jumpy on and off the ball.
Lucas Digne – 7
A real tale of two-halves from the Everton man, whose crossing was just shy of appalling in the 1st half. Appears to fare better when he beats his opposition full-back, is allowed to cut in on the inside millimetres away from the byline, with more cutback-like balls into the box rather than conventional crosses. It was like this that he was able to play a sharp one-two with Mbappé that won him the penalty. Giroud should have scored moments later after a peach of another ball in along the ground for Digne.
N’Golo Kanté – 6
If Varane led with his voice in the first half following the initial adversity, Kanté led with his feet. The only individual who showed sufficient energy in transition and when his side did not have the ball in the first 30 minutes. You could feel that he was just delighted to be starting a competitive football match again after a substantial injury lay-off. Not quite his sharpest performance in terms of the accuracy (or lack of) of his passing, but showed better creativity in driving play forward than midfield counterpart Tolisso.
Corentin Tolisso – 4
Another opportunity for the Bayern Munich to stake a claim to making a place in France’s starting XI his own with Paul Pogba absent, but again Tolisso fell short with a lackadaisical effort defensively in the first half and a lack of both ideas and chemistry with his more attacking team-mates throughout.
Kylian Mbappé – 5
Tendency to overplay and a lack of consistent threat have become hallmarks of Mbappé’s worst career performances. This was certainly up there, at least in the first half. Him and Giroud struggled to be on the same page throughout, which was a constant source of moves breaking down. Totally understandable display from a youngster who has been over-relied upon by club and country in 2019 and is not fully fit after a raft of groin and hamstring issues.
Antoine Griezmann – 3
You can tell that Grizi’s inability so far to gel with his team-mates at Barcelona has psychologically affected him, both in his overall confidence and hunger. Would typically take such a game by the scruff of its neck, being one of the most effective defenders in his tracking back for Les Bleus and running the creative show. He did neither tonight, struggled to find space between the lines up against a stubborn Moldovan defence and spent a strangely considerable amount of time beached on the right wing, with Mbappé coming more central. Concerning.
Kingsley Coman – 5
The Bayern man produced an ineffectual performance that lacked killer instinct throughout, which is the most critical trait in his game that depends so much on his ability to beat opposition defenders with dribbling and trickery. The 2nd half saw him at least leave some Moldovans for dust with his eye-catching twist and turn feints, but he lacked consistently precise crossing and passes.
Olivier Giroud – 6
Used his experience to put off the Moldovan goalkeeper enough for the latter to drop his catch, culminating in the ball going loose for Varane to score an equaliser. Perhaps understandably owing to his inexistent playing time with Chelsea, Giroud proved rusty this evening and on another occasion would have had a hat-trick. Struggled to keep apace with the wavelengths of Mbappé and Coman, but when the chips were down it was he who stepped up to dispatch the winning penalty with aplomb. France’s 3rd highest goalscorer of all time remains critical to Deschamps’ asymmetric 4-2-3-1.
Thomas Lemar – N/A