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26th Jun 2018

World Cup Comments: France are the Manchester United of the World Cup

And that's why they won't win the tournament

Robert Redmond

As expected, France finished top of Group C, and they are safely through to the knockout stages of the World Cup

However, it wasn’t pretty, and they haven’t played well enough to justify their status as one of the favourites for the tournament in Russia. France laboured in all three of their group games. They needed a penalty and an own goal to beat an ordinary Australia side.

They then crept past Peru with a 1-0 win and played out a dull goalless draw with Denmark to top the table.

They will be favourites for their first knockout tie. But based on current form, it’s difficult to see them reaching the final on July 15. It shouldn’t be like this though. France arguably have the most talented team at the World Cup. Antoine Griezmann is one of the best players in the world, Kylian Mbappe has the potential to become the best player in the world and their midfield is packed with talent. Their first-choice central defensive pairing play for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

Their substitute bench is more talented than most teams at the tournament. In fact, some of the players they left at home would be the best players in many of the sides at the tournament in Russia. According to Transfermarkt, France have the most valuable squad in the World Cup. Their 23 players are worth a combined value of £972.45m.

Yet, they are somehow less than the sum of their parts. Didier Deschamps has managed to turn one of the most talented sides in international football into a turgid team. They’re a drag to watch. Brilliant on paper but stodgy on the pitch, France are the Manchester United of the World Cup. Deschamps is Jose Mourinho-lite.

Like Mourinho’s United, there is no cohesion to France’s play. Their build-up is slow and disjointed, with no combination play and very little movement from their forwards. There is no discernible pattern of play whatsoever. They rely on individual talent to get them through matches, and struggle when forced to take the initiative.

Deschamps is unable to bring the best out of his flair players. He started with Griezmann, Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele against Australia, but had to bring on a target man, Olivier Giroud, to win the game.

The Chelsea forward is a very good player. His link-up play is underrated and he gets his fair share of goals. However, in a team as gifted as France, he should be a plan b, not the focal point of the attack.

Deschamps inability to provide attacking structure to his supremely talented team is damning. Like Mourinho, he needs a big man up-front to win second balls and help his side get up the pitch. This is football from a bygone age that has been long bypassed at the top level of the sport. France have the talent to be so much more.

It’s not a question of them taking their time to get going in the tournament. They’re not playing themselves into form. Deschamps has been the France manager for six years and the side still resemble strangers on the pitch. This is as good as it will get, but it surely won’t be enough to win a competition they should be serious contenders for.

It’s clear that the manager is incapable of harnessing anything more from his team.

It doesn’t matter who United sign as long as Jose Mourinho is the manager, and they persist with reactionary tactics that have long been discarded by other top sides. The same applies to France. It doesn’t matter how many gifted young players they have, Deschamps clearly won’t get the best out of them.