France 1-0 Germany – Tactical Analysis

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In a match full of energy and fire, one that felt almost like a semi-final, France came out on top with relative ease over a fruitless Germany team. Didier Deschamps men secured a 1-0 victory at the unfortunate hands (or feet) of Mats Hummels banging the ball into the back of his own net, allowing the world champions to jump up into second in the group. Here is our tactical analysis of the match!

france – 4-3-3

(GK) Hugo Lloris, (RB) Benjamin Pavard, (CB) Presnel Kimpembe, (CB) Raphael Varane, (LB) Lucas Hernandez, (DM) N’Golo Kante, (CM) Paul Pogba, (CM) Adrien Rabiot, (RW) Antoine Griezmann, (CF) Karim Benzema, (LW) Kylian Mbappe

out of possession

Out of possession, France set up in a 4-3-3 shape, in a sort of unaggressive man to man press. Each French player had the task of applying pressure to a specific German, except for N’Golo Kante who had a slightly more free role to roam in behind, mop up any messes and track any peculiar movements if one of the two central midfielders found themselves out of place. Griezmann also operated much more to the right than he was in possession, and tracked Antonio Rudiger, who was one of Germany’s more influential members in their build-up. While France were perfectly comfortable letting Germany have the ball, they did attempt to stop Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan from having space and time to receive in midfield. They did this by Rabiot and Pogba tracking their movement and attaching themselves fairly close to their opposite numbers, shuffling play out wide instead where Germany couldn’t get a grip. France were comfortable letting Low’s team have the ball, knowing that the possession was largely in Germany’s own half, and that they were going to be very hard to break down in any area of the field given their shape, energy and personnel. Deustchland had to constantly rely on moving the ball out wide and then in field, but on several occasions the likes of Pavard/Pogba and Hernandez/Rabiot were able to cut off these wide moves before the ball ever progressed into the Kante zone.

in possession

France’s possession was more fluid than their defensive structure, operating in what could be considered a 2-3-5 shape. This 2-3-5 shape was very different from Manchester City‘s in the Premier League this season, as France’s front five were usually much more narrow, and often in close proximity.

As Varane and Kimpembe moved the ball around, the fullbacks progressed higher in the same line with Kante, and the central midfielders pushed up to receive in between the lines. Griezmann also buzzed around and often dropped in, providing another option for vertical passes. When progressing into the final third, both fullbacks could often be found higher up and adding additional chaos to that mix, as France attacked in numbers. Within this shape, they relied on magic from Pogba to pick out smooth passes from right to left at the most opportune moments, and also looked for potential passing interchanges between the narrow front three who again operated in close proximity.

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France’s build-up was also quite progressive. They played as though they had a reason behind every single pass – moving the ball quickly and never letting the energy of the match die down. They moved the ball around at speed and then looked for moments to play vertical passes into Paul Pogba or Antoine Griezmann – who operated in between the lines. The Barcelona man often played as though he was at the top of a midfield diamond in behind the front two, dropping in to get on the ball deeper before releasing to France’s two danger men. Without that right winger, Griezmann would often then play left to Mbappe to work some magic. In other moments, Pogba’s influence on the match would shine instead and France would return to a more even split of right side vs. left side (which actually ended 40% each). As part of this progressive approach, Deschamps’ team never let their strikers become inactive. They were constantly looking to play passes into Benzema and Mbappe, even if it meant a looped ball over the top or a through ball into space. This is how both of their second half goals were scored and both were magnificently dispatched, only to be brought back for offside. Beyond this, the movement of the front three was fluid. They interchanged comfortably, and always looked for gaps in between Germany’s defensive line to exploit.

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Both in and out of possession France’s midfield was also particularly impressive, providing a great balance of personalities. Kante was up to his usual standards, buzzing around the pitch and winning everything as though there were two of him, while Pogba’s vision and range were on full display as he had a massive influence over France’s fluidity in the final third. But Adrien Rabiot also had an impressive night, operating in a box to box role and providing a solid mix of poise in possession, with extra defensive steel.

germany – 3-4-2-1

(GK) Manuel Neuer, (RCB) Matthias Ginter, (CB) Mats Hummels, (LCB) Antonio Rudiger, (RWB) Joshua Kimmich, (CM) Toni Kroos, (CM) Ilkay Gundogan, (LWB) Robin Gosens, (RAM) Kai Havertz, (CF) Serge Gnabry, (LW) Thomas Muller

out of possession

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Germany set up to defend in a 3-4-3 shape that probably did not move fast enough into 5-4-1 when it needed to. They had no inclinations to press particularly high or aggressively, and failed fairly miserably in stopping France from progressing through the thirds.

Germany had over 60% of the possession in the match, so their defensive attributes were not always on full display. However, there were a couple of key notes. While Paul Pogba had an excellent influence over the game, Toni Kroos was also solid in specific moments in stopping the United man from receiving, if not progressing. The midfield man made seven tackles in the match, the most of any player in the game. While elsewhere Germany had the players fit to challenge France, they didn’t have quite the same cohesion. You could clearly tell which side had more time to gel together prior to the tournament beginning, and this is probably something that cannot be underestimated when it comes to France’s chances moving forward.

Hummels was decent sweeping up messes, covering space in behind Rudiger and Ginter, but the German structure needed to be better in order to stop those attempts from happening in the first place.

That leads us to our other key tactical note about Germany’s defense – which is that Hummels and Ginter looked to combine whenever possible to stop Mbappe from taking control. They looked to create defensive 2v1 situations and tame the beast, which worked on occasion and resulted in an offside goal on another. What this could have done if Mbappe was less of a ball hog (with all due respect), is open up space for switches to the right in particular with Pogba, Pavard and Griezmann. Mbappe could have also looked for moments to slip in Hernandez before whipping a cross to that far side for someone like Benzema to convert. It never really happened that way, since Mbappe always wanted to take these opportunities to prove to everyone just how good he is…and to be fair…he kind of did exactly that.

in possession

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In possession of the ball, Germany looked out of sorts and out of ideas. Whatever tactics they wanted to implement in their quest to break France down and score goals never became clearly apparent, and never came off. As the right-wing-back, Joshua Kimmich played far too wide and never found himself in the right areas to impact the match. This completely took away the potential for one of the team’s most potent attacking creators to do what he does best, and made Germany much more redundant in possession.

Germany built out from the back in their 3-4-2-1 shape, with the centre-backs circulating the ball around and looking for moments to progress into the wide areas with Joshua Kimmich and Robin Gosens. Once there they then looked instantly to progress into central channels, which never really worked. France’s man marking meant that even if a German player was the first to receive the pass, they often didn’t have many options afterward. Joachim Low’s team only looked more dangerous once actually progressing into the wide areas more and looking to deliver crosses into the box from their wing-backs. But with no target man and no functional fluidity in their movement, these attempts often went to waste. We’re not exactly sure if Joachim Low is stuck in a different decade, playing like it’s 2014, or if he really just has no idea how to get the best out of this crop of players. But all three of Germany’s starting attackers and any that came on as substitutes never gained any momentum in the match. France were partially to blame for that in their excellent man-marking, but Germany were certainly also to blame in their inability to find the right pockets of space. Most of their possession was in their own half, and when they did progress into France’s, they couldn’t create anything of note.


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In the most high profile match of the Group Stages so far, France completely dominated Germany and the 1-0 score-line certainly flatters Joachim Low’s team. Germany will need to find new mechanisms for chance creation in their next match, otherwise they could be destined for a third place finish in the Group of Death. France on the other hand look like one of the very best teams in the tournament, gelling together almost like a club team as part of Didier Deschamps’ master plan to get them to another final.

So there it is! A tactical analysis of France and Germany’s fiery Group F fixture. Be sure to check out more Match Analyses, Euro 2020 articles and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite. If you are interested in becoming a subscriber to the site also be sure to check out our free and paid subscription options. Thanks for reading and see you soon.

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