Soccer

FIFA World Cup 2022: France’s unsung heroes — Lloris, Griezmann, Rabiot — are setting Mbappe up for success

France are into the FIFA 2022 World Cup quarterfinals and may well be considered favorites now after their 3-1 win over Poland on Sunday which underlined Kylian Mbappe’s status as arguably the tournament’s form player. The Paris Saint-Germain superstar netted two second half goals at Al Thumama Stadium to shoot to the top of the goal scoring charts with five in Qatar while Olivier Giroud opened the scoring in what had been a tight contest up until half time in Doha.

While Giroud is rightly getting praised for his 52nd international goal which makes him Les Bleus all-time top scorer and Mbappe is enjoying the latest wave of adulation for another superlative showing, French captain Hugo Lloris, Antoine Griezmann, Adrien Rabiot, and Theo Hernandez also merit comment.

Had the Tottenham Hotspur shot-stopper not been alert to keep out Piotr Zielinksi from point-blank range before Giroud even opened the scoring, then Poland would have taken the lead and perhaps the outcome of the match might have been totally different. It is not the first time that Lloris has been decisive like that either as the 35-year-old made a superb save at 1-1 against Denmark in the crucial Group D clash which could have totally flipped the surprising outcome in the Scandinavian’s favor. Lloris was unlucky to be penalized for coming off his line too quickly when he denied Robert Lewandowski’s first effort at a late retaken penalty which was eventually converted as it would have been the perfect way to confirm a first tournament clean sheet.

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Griezmann’s renaissance has also flown under the radar as the Atletico Madrid star has grown into this World Cup in the same way that he did back in 2018 as Deschamps has restored the 31-year-old’s main playmaking qualities to rejuvenate a player who has been out of form for years until now. The former Barcelona man was unlucky to have his effort ruled out late against Tunisia in the final Group D clash and he also went close to scoring against Denmark, but performances like this one against Poland are the real proof that Griezmann has been revived by Deschamps. Playing in a more familiar No. 10 role when France are attacking, the diminutive No. 7 is often pulling the strings and delivering dangerous balls in from set pieces to increase Les Bleus’ prowess in front of goal and it was no surprise that he was already leading the way for big chances created during the group stage with five.

As you can see from his heatmap from the tournament the playmaker has been drifting both left and right to combine with France’s electric attackers in order to create dangerous goal scoring situations.


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Lightening Griezmann’s load of central midfield work have been Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni with the former particularly vital once again after impressive performances against Australia and then Denmark in Group D. The Juventus man was the most experienced midfielder at Deschamps’ disposal coming into this World Cup and the 27-year-old has embraced that with a series of mature displays which included the all-important equalizer against the Socceroos in the opener.

Opting for Theo Hernandez at left back instead of asking Rabiot to play left wing back like at UEFA Euro 2020 was a sage decision of Deschamps’ with the AC Milan gem offering real width and a defensive shift which has enabled the Juve man to bring his technique and vision to the fore. Hernandez provided two assists during the group stage and although he is yet to notch another in the knockout phase, his playing in behind Mbappe when the French No. 10 is out wide makes Les Bleus lethal down the left and not only because of the PSG superstar’s searing pace.

Deschamps will be happy to let Mbappe and Giroud take most of the plaudits after the Poland win because of the way that history was made with those goals and the fact that it leads France into their first real rest period of the tournament. However, the World Cup-winning former captain and head coach should not overlook how much some of these more understated names have brought to the table on the way to the quarterfinals which paints the French as arguably the form team in Qatar.



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