Commentary

The case for ... France

France goes for its second World Cup title when it faces Croatia in the final on Sunday. Its coach, Didier Deschamps, knows all about winning, having captained Les Bleus when they won in 1998. Deschamps' rigorous approach might not appeal to everyone, but it has certainly been effective.

Here are five reasons why France should win ...

1. France came through toughest side of bracket.

On one side, there's France, which played Argentina (the 2014 runner-up), Uruguay (unbeaten and untied in four games) and Belgium (unbeaten and untied in five games).

On the other side, Croatia played Denmark, Russia and England -- three group runners-up -- and it needed overtime (and in two cases penalty kicks) to beat them.

France had the far tougher road to the final and won all three games in convincing fashion.



2. France has still more to offer.

Except for nine minutes early in the second half against Argentina, France has not trailed at the World Cup.

Les Bleus coasted through the group stage and shifted into cruise control in the knockout stage. Only once did they operate at top speed, and that was after falling behind in Kazan, blitzing the Argentines for three goals in 11 minutes.

They have gotten better each game in the tournament yet still seem capable of producing more.

3. This time it is France that has extra day.


A lot has been made of how tired Croatia will be. It will not only enter the final having played the equivalent of an extra day, but it will have one less day of rest. France knows what that's like.

In 2006, it lost to Italy in the World Cup final after playing its semifinal against Portugal a day after the Azzurri knocked off host Germany. Two years ago, France had one less day to recover after beating Germany in the European Championship semifinals and lost to Portugal in the final.

4. France wins with its defense-first attitude.

Having won the UEFA Champions League again with Real Madrid, 25-year-old central defender Raphael Varane is being mentioned as a contender for the Ballon d'Or. (If Croatia wins on Sunday, the favorite will be club teammate Luka Modric.)

Varane has marshaled the best defense at the World Cup. Behind him is Hugo Lloris, who has come up with big saves in the wins over Australia, Peru, Uruguay and Belgium. Alongside Varane are Samuel Umtiti in the middle and outside backs Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez. (The scary part? None of the three is older than 24.)

In front of Varane are N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Blas Matuidi, but a major reason for France's lock-down defense has been the work of forwards Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann coming back to support the defense.

How good was France against Belgium? Les Bleus limited the best attack at the World Cup to nine shots and needed to commit only six fouls to shut out the Red Devils.

5. France has the most exciting player in the tournament.

How important is the work of Giroud and Griezmann on the defensive side? It lets Kylian Mbappe off the hook from most defensive duties -- quite a testament to how, at the age of 19, he is already the star of the show.

France let Belgium attack 7-on-9, knowing that the three Red Devils in the back had to respect Mbappe's speed. (It also knew they offered nothing offensively.)

But as he showed with his double back-heel flick, Mbappe isn't a one trick pony.
6 comments about "The case for ... France".
  1. frank schoon, July 13, 2018 at 10:07 a.m.

    I was never against France to win but this world cup they are simply an abomination for the soccer
    they have produced, it's "garbage". Soccer insiders all over Europe are lamenting about France. France has produced so much talent, and through this talent could give the world enjoyment. Can you imagine what Guardiola would do with this French team and this talent if he were coach.
    This is what the WC used to be , countries coming together to display  their style of soccer and show off their talent. Brazil introduced  the 4-2-4 system at the '58 with Pele and WC'70 with stars Rivelino, called "Revelation" who had hardest shot in the world breaking a goalie's shoulder on one of his direct kicks, Carlos Albertos , the white PELE, Tostao,etc. Then in '74WC the world was introduced to 'Total Soccer" with Johan Cruyff that is still talked about to this day. Then in '82 Brazil with Socrates, one-touching, Zico and Eder ,the master Shooter. Holland didn't win in '74 but neither did Brazil in '82 but no one could tell you who won in '74 or '82 instead they all remember to this day the countries that gave the world the beautiful soccer that was displayed. 
    This is what the WC should be about, but instead it is now all about winning regardless of how we play. Umtiti the french defender stated this much. If the french win, no one will remember about the French in a few years for they will leave no impression.
    Like some of the Belgian players stated..."Rather lose with Belgian than win with France" and ' we would rather have lost to Brazil to a country who actually played soccer"

  2. R2 Dad, July 13, 2018 at 4:37 p.m.

    We might think differently about this if we already had a star on our shirt....

  3. frank schoon replied, July 14, 2018 at 7:58 a.m.

    R2, a star? No thank you, not if it is earned through crap soccer which I see so much.  If Germany plays Holland and Germany plays great soccer and Holland plays garbage then I’m rooting for Germany ;for I appreciate how difficult it is to play good soccer.
    I’m a lover of good painters regardless what country they come from and that is how I look at soccer through the eyes of lover painting.

  4. R2 Dad, July 13, 2018 at 4:45 p.m.

    .6 Ousmane Dembélé is on the bench. Let that sink in for a moment. In case M'Bappe pulls up lame, they can slot in a Barca player who can hardly get a sniff of playing time in the knockout stages. What the Nats would give for a winger like that....

  5. frank schoon replied, July 14, 2018 at 7:49 a.m.

    R2, I wouldn’t call Mbappe a winger ,not by along shot. I would describe him as a player with speed on the flanks

  6. John Soares, July 14, 2018 at 4:44 p.m.

    So Frank, are you saying that if you can't get a top painter.
    You would never paint your house:)
    I too love good soccer, but, bring on the star!!!

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