Expert view from France: It doesn't matter if Les Bleus win the 2018 World Cup with ugly football
Ahead of the World Cup final between France and Croatia, we asked our Paris office for their insight into Les Bleus and how they have performed in Russia 2018...
Didier Deschamps seems to divide opinion - is he lucky, good or a mixture of both? What does France think of him?
Basically, luck is a myth everyone likes to make fun of in France. We have a trivial expression “La chatte à DD”, which is a vulgar way to describe luck in French – but it’s hard to translate. Deschamps has won almost everything in football, so he must have something. And, even if some people do not like the way Les Bleus play, they respect Deschamps’ pragmatism more and more - and they won’t mind at all if we win the World Cup on Sunday.
What do you make of Pogba’s performances? Is he fulfilling his potential or is there more to come?
Pogba has really stepped up in this World Cup. In the past few years we could sometimes feel that he was lost on the pitch, and that he had not found his best position yet. But in Russia, he has been very disciplined, and that is what we had been hoping to see for a long time. He has been a key piece in the defensive system, especially against Belgium, and he makes great runs forward. He may still be greedy at times, but he looks very mature now, and has been a true leader for France.
How important is N’Golo Kante? Has he received the praise he deserves?
N’Golo Kante has arguably been the best French player at this World Cup, along with Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane and Pogba. Everyone loves him here: he’s humble and does an incredible amount of defensive work on the pitch. His partnership with Pogba is also getting better and better, and they are very complementary. The only downside is that he can get better when passing forward, and take more risks with the ball: but as this offensive role depends more on Pogba, we can forgive him.
Olivier Giroud is yet to have a single shot on target – will he start the final? Should he?
Giroud still creates a great debate here. But he is very important in the 4-2-3-1 that Deschamps set up from the Peru game. He works a lot defensively, he creates spaces for Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, he is important on set-pieces… He has not been lucky in the box yet, but no other striker can do what he does in France. It is almost 100% sure he will start the final.
What weaknesses does this France team have?
I would say the full-backs. Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard were true revelations, but they are still inexperienced. The latter has suffered; in spite of his wonderful goal against Argentina, he was guilty for the second goal France conceded, and he also had trouble defending against Eden Hazard in the semi-finals. But who wouldn’t?
What threat do Croatia pose?
Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic have been one of the best pair of midfielders in the World Cup, and their confrontation with Pogba and Kante will be one of the key factors in the game. I think France must also watch out for Croatia’s mentality: they came back in all of their knockout games, so if Les Bleus score first, they will have to control the game. If the match lasts until extra time, Croatia will also surely have a psychological advantage, as they have won their three last games that way.
Does it matter how France win?
No, it does not. Sure, with our generation of players (Mbappe, Dembele, Griezmann, Pogba, Fekir...), many people expect wonderful football. But I can assure you that if France win on Sunday, it won’t matter at all. Even if some people call Deschamps’ team “ugly”. In 1998, our side was even more defensively-minded: but no one cares about that 20 years later.
Has there been much made of Courtois and Hazard’s comments about France’s anti-football in the semi-final?
Many people thought it was a real lack of class, especially because Belgium also played very defensively against Brazil in the quarter finals. But the majority knows that these comments were made directly after the game. Belgium truly believed they could win it, so there was disappointment on their side - and it’s normal. Actually, it is not really a big deal. Except on Twitter, but everything is a big deal there.