“Well, just winning. » Questioned at the end of June, Corinne Deacon did not tremble when she was asked to unfold on the table what she would like to see from her France team during the Euro. At the time of diving into a competition which could be one of the turning points of her mandate, the boss of the Blue has indeed not changed course: as long as the results are there, the bottle does not matter to her.
Alert, here they are again: three years after the tears at the Parc des Princes, where they saw their World Cup come to an abrupt end against the United States (1-2), the Bleues are back on the roads of summer international games . First corner, Saturday, in Rotherham, against Italy, an opponent who has never managed to tame the French team in six battles. Before its entry into the running in a Euro which started this week, the band of Corinne Deacon, undefeated since April 2021 and sitting on a series of fourteen consecutive victories, obviously did not turn their thumbs and notably offered two exotic dinners: one against Cameroon (4-0), on June 25, in Beauvais, then another against Viet Nam (7-0), six days later, near Orleans. The explanation for the choice of such a menu is simple: in wanting to avoid crossing swords with a potential future adversary, the staff of Les Bleues came up against calendar problems – the dates of the two meetings not corresponding to FIFA dates, it was impossible to face European teams not qualified for the Euros – and soon did not have many alternatives. Despite two weak adversities and two river successes, the Habs were able, after three complex years, to refine their bearings and the public became a little more familiar with a group in full revival. The Henry, Le Sommer, Thiney, Bouhaddi, Majri generation has thus given way to other strong figures (Katoto, Cascarino, Baltimore, Bacha), all still well supported by certain executives already present at the 2019 World Cup. He is here it is important to know these names well in order to best experience the next European adventure of this French team, as it only seems to live to the rhythm of individual exploits called upon to concretize an obvious defensive base.
The Mad Diagonal
“The idea is to establish our tactical plan and perfect our physical preparation. » Deacon herself announced. If the preparation matches looked more like laps in disguise than real opposition requiring meticulous tactical preparation, certain main axes have nevertheless emerged from the last outings of the Blues. The first finds its source in one of the great weapons of the French central hinge: the long game and the diagonals. As usual since she took power in September 2017, Corinne Deacon leaves it to her players to give the team an identity by putting their individual qualities at the center of the collective project. Thus, we must see the taulières Wendie Renard and Griedge Mbock in action, trying to regularly reverse the game towards the opposite winger so that the latter takes advantage of the time and space opened up by the diagonals of the axial ones. Facing Cameroon, Melvine Malard, installed to the right of the 4-3-3 tricolor, was notably found several times by Mbock. The effectiveness of this circuit is intimately linked to the accuracy of the Lyon quarterbacks and makes it possible to make the most of the two strong sectors of the group: the central defense and the sides. These warheads, sent from right to left and from left to right, above all make it possible to connect the executive players (Mbock, Renard, Diani, Cascarino) between them. Delphine Cascarino, on the left, and Kadidiatou Diani (or Malard), on the right, almost always individually superior to their vis-à-vis, then have the physical and technical qualities to make the difference.
Example of Mbock’s winning diagonal towards Melvine Malard, against Cameroon.
If the long game of the France team is not just a matter of these devastating diagonals, it is most often thanks to this process, not very stellar, but terribly effective (during the 2019 World Cup, no team had not succeeded in more long passes than the Blue ones), that the players of Deacon manage to worry the opposing defenses. The quality of the passers, the subtlety of Katoto’s deflection game, Diani’s speed and Cascarino’s ability to eliminate are factors that push the Tricolores to bet on a direct game in order to take advantage of spaces while avoiding the maximum. density and opposing numerical superiorities.
Mateo, the light asset
Like the sober, rectangular glasses she sometimes wears at a press conference, Corinne Deacon has built a team that could be described as useful. Result, if this collective is perhaps above all only the reflection of its boss, it must rely on the races of certain players to bring excess numbers and spontaneity. Some girls are then targeted: the torchbearers (Dali, Toletti, Mateo, Geyoro), whose mission is to project themselves in order to provide a solution behind the opposing laterals to the players placed on the sides. Last April, during the victory against Slovenia (1-0), the French team, for example, made the difference following a dive from Clara Mateo, well served by Sandy Baltimore in the half. -left space before finding Cascarino at the far post.
Sequence of Mateo’s famous dive into the left half-space against Slovenia, which then led to Cascarino’s goal.
A fortiori, this animation makes it possible to offer the blue machine solutions to pierce the low blocks which it often faces. These interior sprints help side players who are just waiting for it and naturally destabilize the opposing block by all the antagonistic adjustments they cause. Automatically, the French wingers can attack a side plagued by doubts even more and make their weapons speak.
Despite the exacerbated ascendancy of the France team during her two preparation matches, Corinne Deacon maintained her guideline by inevitably aligning the same system – a 4-3-3 with the ball, 4-1-4-1 without -, with no room for fantasy, which inevitably limits the chance of some players to integrate an eleven type that already seems well established. One element nevertheless managed to pull out of the game: Clara Mateo, 25, who took advantage of the match against Slovenia in April to scratch some playing time when the qualification for the 2023 World Cup had been acquired four days earlier at the Wales. Three starts in three games later, combined with Grace Geyoro’s knee injury sidelined during the prep, and here is the Nantes native propelled into the eleven a few days from starting the Euro against Italy. Brilliant in his last outings, just on the ball and generous in his calls, Mateo could pull off a nice thorn from the side of Corinne Deacon.
The Cascarino Puzzle
The coach has, on the other hand, a chance identical to that of Didier Deschamps: she has in her game one of the best attacks in the world. Problem, whether with Benzema, Griezmann and Mbappé or Katoto, Diani and Cascarino, such a treasure necessarily requires certain adjustments to shine. At Les Bleues, Deacon had to decide by deporting Delphine Cascarino to the left, who has spent her entire career on the right bank. This decision, which may seem trivial, could be crucial as we know how dependent the French team is on the effectiveness of its wings. This was already the case during the last World Cup (by the way, during the competition, no one had centered more than the Blues).
The rocking suffered by the OL player, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest talents in this squad, raises some questions: Will Cascarino manage to maintain her 60% successful dribbles this season while the orientation of his body and the use of his bad foot differ? Will she finally succeed in being more statistically significant at the dawn of starting a major competition in an area that will naturally lead her more to get back on her right foot to strike than to overflow to cross? For her first competition as a starter, she could also face competition from Baltimore, which always responds when offered the opportunity to shine and which has a superior statistical contribution (among others, 13 assists with the PSG player this season against 4 for the Lyonnaise).
Highlighting Cascarino’s natural propensity to go inside when lined up on the left side.
On paper, Corinne Deacon undoubtedly has one of the best squads in the tournament, led in particular by Marie-Antoinette Katoto finally freed from her contractual concerns. However, the extreme predictability of this French team could play a few tricks on it. If the many crosses to Katoto and the domination of the Mbock-Renard pair on set pieces could save some badly embarked scenarios, the Tricolores will need a little more collective ingenuity against individually competitive opponents. While they have never passed the quarterfinals at the Euro, the Blue are now so obsessed with the result that they can sometimes perhaps forget the best way to achieve it. This two-faced nation is feared, but its main danger remains itself. Answers expected, as of Saturday.
by Matthias Ribeiro