France vs. Paraguay: 6 Things We Learned
France had the victory in their pockets, but Paraguay leveled in the final minutes of Sunday's match to earn a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Riviera.
A young Paraguayan squad showed potential for the future and even made Didier Deschamps and his team look bad, as the French displayed little imagination up front. For the French this game should have definitely served their purpose of getting better, as there are many points that they can improve on in order to avoid having issues in the World Cup.
Victor Caceres tied the game late in the second half with a header coming off a free-kick. Set pieces are usually a factor in close games like this one, but there are many other things the French should work on if they want to go far this summer.
Here are six things we learned from the match.
Future Is Looking Bright for Paraguay
After qualifying for four straight World Cup finals, Paraguay had a terrible campaign during Brazil 2014 qualifiers and were eliminated early. However, a transition that has seen many veteran players leave the team has now made space for young players who looked ready to bring Paraguay to the top levels of South America.
The two young center-backs from local Paraguayan club Cerro Porteno made a case for themselves, especially Danilo Ortiz. They didn’t suffer from inexperience at the international level, and their leadership was key in keeping the defense tight and leaving very few spaces for the French attacks.
Not only did Paraguay show off some good defensive players but also a couple of young midfielders who can attack, which certainly gave some headaches to the French back line. In the first half, before he got injured, David Mendieta forced the French defenders to constantly foul him. And Jorge Rojas, who came in as a substitution, got the assist on the equalizer.
Loic Remy and Olivier Giroud Need to Be More Lethal
Both attackers used by Didier Deschamps had a decent performance, mainly in the first half. They even had a good connection between them, one of which ended with a spectacular volley kick by Remy that went too high. However, they weren’t capable of capitalizing their chances.
They didn’t have such clear opportunities to score, but when you play against a team that is very compact on its back line, you have to take advantage of any type of chances you get.
Giroud did well playing in a holdup role, as many times he received the ball facing his own goal and even showed the skills to get the ball down a couple of times to assist Remy. In the second half he almost disappeared from the game, but luckily took part in the French goal. While Remy had a couple of chances, including shots from outside the box, he was off target.
For a period of time in the first half, it looked like France could get that opening goal, as they were more aggressive, but eventually the little gaps that Paraguay left were sealed. It was then more difficult for the French to find a goal; they lost momentum and had nothing to show for it.
Lack of French Full-Backs' Attacking Support
Bacary Sagna and Patrice Evra have proven to be two full-backs with the tendency to attack, but they failed to do so in a relevant way against Paraguay. Not even when it seemed that France had the momentum to attack and that Paraguay wasn’t coming out too much from its own half did either of them make a relevant appearance up front.
Defensively their work was effective, and if we take into consideration that that should be their main concern, then they got the job done for the most part. The problem is that in the type of game that Paraguay proposed, what was most needed from them was not their defensive skill, but what they could contribute to the offense.
Griezmann Finds the Net for the French
Antoine Griezmann came off the bench with about 25 minutes to go and managed to do what Remy had not done: put the ball in the back of the net.
With a classy finish with less than 10 minutes on the clock, Griezmann had scored what looked to be the winning goal. What was interesting about his goal was his coolness to try something different in the box, as any average player would have probably tried to blast a shot past all the traffic in the zone.
If the Real Sociedad winger can perform the way he has done the last couple of seasons in La Liga, Deschamps could have his No. 1 choice off the bench. Or even better, if Franck Ribery isn’t at his full fitness, he could be someone to think of to take his place.
France's Dependence on Pogba
Earlier in the week, France was able to beat Norway 4-0, with Paul Pogba being the key midfield player who gave balance to the team and the one chosen to take the French back to being World Cup protagonists.
Against Norway he only played 45 minutes, and as noted by Bleacher Report’s Jerrad Peters, “The 21-year-old showed the sort of power and energy his country became accustomed to during the days of Patrick Vieira.”
Against Paraguay he played the full 90 but did not impress as much. When he got the ball and commanded the attack he looked sharp, but his influence was too intermittent. Even Deschamps was probably expecting more of the Juventus midfielder tonight.
France Was Disappointing and Fell into Paraguay’s Game
Paraguay suffered in some passages of the game but eventually were able to extinguish the fire and take the pressure away.
France was unable to capitalize on their momentum and ended up frustrated, with a lack of imagination in attack. They even got into a more physical game, which was beneficial for the South Americans. Therefore the French ended up disappointing, but they can definitely learn from this match.
Ecuador and Honduras are likely to try what Paraguay did today, giving the initiative of the game to the Europeans; France should know that. So if they want to beat them, they will have to figure out how to create more chances and not be predictable; if not, they are going to end up relying on star-power inspiration to score like they did today.
France cannot let their World Cup group-stage rivals to take the game where they want it.
Once France found the net, even if undeserved, they thought the match was over, but Paraguay knew better and tied the game in the 88th minute. Deschamps and his players should focus on killing the game instead of thinking it’s over and letting their prey stay alive.