Key Selection Dilemmas for France in World Cup Clash with Switzerland
The France coach took a slight chance in his starting XI for Sunday’s game against Honduras, and the 3-0 victory was complete justification for his decisions.
Now, going into Friday’s game against Switzerland, Deschamps has very few concerns and has absolutely no reason to change the side that started the opening game.
The attacking trio of Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann and Mathieu Valbuena worked to perfection. There was a great amount of movement and fluidity, which worked perfectly against the more powerful and rigid Honduran back line.
France’s second group game against Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Swiss side promises to be a tougher challenge than that offered by the CONCACAF team. The side ranked sixth in FIFA’s rankings will try and keep the ball more than Honduras, but they will also be just as difficult to break down.
It is unlikely that Deschamps will make any changes to the front line—pace and movement look the best way to attack Hitzfeld’s side. All 11 players who started on Sunday deserve their continued place in the team, but there are a couple of decisions that the World Cup winner will have to mull over before Friday’s match.
Here are some of the key decisions that Deschamps faces this Friday.
Lucas Digne vs. Patrice Evra
Undoubtedly, Sunday was one of Evra’s best performances for France in the last few years. The Manchester United defender was efficient in defence and offered an option down the left. His deliveries caused multiple problems to the Honduran defence.
The only blemish on Evra’s performance was the yellow card that he picked up after only seven minutes for a tackle on Andy Najar.
Deschamps has two issues to consider. Firstly, does he risk Evra picking up another yellow card, or even encourage it, so that he misses the Ecuador game?
If Deschamps does rest Evra, he risks a yellow card against Ecuador and would miss the first game of the knockout stage, should France get there.
The other issue is the fitness and recovery levels of the 33-year-old defender. In Lucas Digne, France have a very capable, very able defender, who would be the ideal player to combat the attacking full-backs of Switzerland.
Evra is coming off a very long season for United, and there will be questions surrounding whether he can play such a high amount of games in such close proximity.
Digne is faster up and down the pitch and provides more of an attacking threat. He has played in the Champions League for Lille, and he has enjoyed an encouraging first season for Paris Saint-Germain.
It is unlikely that Deschamps will rest Evra just yet, but it will be an issue going through his head as the heat and humidity of Brazil takes its toll.
Rio Mavuba vs. Yohan Cabaye
Lille OSC captain Rio Mavuba made an entrance into Sunday’s game in the 65th minute for his former team-mate Yohan Cabaye. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder had played a superbly, and he was one of a few candidates as France's man of the match.
He bossed the midfield, spraying the ball around the pitch and also provided the cross for Benzema’s shot that crashed off the post before goal-line technology ruled in France’s favour. Alongside the energy of Blaise Matuidi and the unpredictability of Pogba, Cabaye was the ideal companion.
Unfortunately, when Cabaye came off he was pictured with an ice pack on his groin. He hadn’t finished any of the three previous warm-up games and it is obvious the midfielder was in some discomfort.
The power and trickery of the Swiss midfielders could exacerbate Cabaye's problems, and as it is likely to be more of an even battle than the Honduras game, it may be the perfect time to rest Cabaye.
Valentin Stocker, Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka will pose a different threat to the French midfield, and Mavuba is one of the best players France have at tracking midfield runs and protecting the defence.
If there is any doubt over the fitness of Cabaye, it would be better to give him a chance to recover, rather than make any slight knock worse.
Moussa Sissoko vs. Paul Pogba
Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba nearly saw red against Honduras on Sunday night. Figuratively speaking, he did see red, but the referee didn’t show him a red card.
Pogba kicked out at Wilson Palacios after the Stoke City midfielder stamped on the young French player’s legs.
The Brazilian referee could have shown Pogba a red card, but he diffused the situation by only showing both a yellow card.
The incident highlighted that Pogba still has a long way to go in terms of maturity and big-game experience. This is something the Swiss side will have identified, and it’s something they could target.
Putting Pogba up against Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler could be a disaster waiting to happen. The Napoli duo could easily go about winding Pogba up, and after Sunday’s incident, it could be something the referees are looking for.
Moussa Sissoko showed against Jamaica and Honduras that he can play that role perfectly. He would slot in on the right of the three-man midfield and provide more strength and power in the centre of the park.
Deschamps can’t afford to lose Pogba for a few games due to suspension. If France are to impress and go far, they need the 21-year-old to perform to his full potential.
However, Pogba is in the same situation as Evra; a single yellow card would rule him out of the Ecuador game, but would see him return for the round of 16.
It is unlikely that Deschamps will make any changes to the starting XI for the match against Switzerland, but there are a few issues that may cross Deschamps' mind as he picks the team for the second group game on Friday.