Published on : Modified :
Traveling to Croatia as part of the League of Nations, the Blues suffered again on Monday. The reigning world champions thought they had done the hardest part after Adrien Rabiot’s opener but their opponents equalized from the penalty spot.
Second match of affiliation without victory for the Blues: the French team was held in check 1-1 by Croatia during the second day of the League of Nations, Monday June 6, in the stifling heat of Split.
With a largely overhauled workforce – Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann being left on the bench at kick-off – the Blues opened the scoring thanks to Adrien Rabiot (52e) in the second half. But on a penalty caused by Jonathan Clauss, Andrej Kamaric equalized for the Croats less than ten minutes from the end of the match (83e). And without the masterful parades of Mike Maignan (71e87e), the men of Didier Deschamps would have left the Balkans with a zero point.
“There were good things and control, especially given the changes” but “our end to the match was much less consistent than what we had done for 80 minutes”, admitted Deschamps.
With one point in two games, France is very slightly complicating the task with a view to qualifying for the “Final 4”. He will have to react Friday in Austria, before welcoming the Croats on June 13 for the return leg.
Partially regained solidity
In Vienna on Friday, the atmosphere may not be as overheated as at the Poljud stadium, the open-air lair of Hajduk Split, housed between the Mosor massif and the Adriatic Sea. This setting, unprecedented for France, gave ideas to coach Didier Deschamps, eager to “raise his head” as well as to keep the organisms strained by the heat and a harassing season.
At kick-off, he only sent two world champions, Benjamin Pavard and Presnel Kimpembe, and only one survivor of the defeat against the Danes, Aurélien Tchouaméni. Still embarrassed on one knee, Kylian Mbappé did not even warm up. Even the tireless Antoine Griezmann was spared at kick-off, a first in 22 matches, before coming into play for the last half hour.
But after eight games in a row in 3–5–2, the most unexpected adjustment concerned the tactical scheme, with the return of the system of the World Cup-2018 final: seven defensive players and a four-man defense.
If the objective of the evening was to regain solidity after the breaches seen against the Danes, this was only partially achieved, with an end to the game to forget and multiple inaccuracies at the start of the match, which would have could be very expensive. Until the penalty, the Blues systematically found a way to erase their mistakes and make up for their blunders, in particular thanks to the vigilance of their evening captain, Kimpembe.
Opposite, the vibrant songs of the 30,000 Croatian supporters guided Vatreni also in reconquest after suffering a humiliation at home on Friday, against Austria (3-0).
The majority of the cheers were overwhelmingly – and logically – aimed at Luka Modric: the Real Madrid playmaker, recently crowned European champion, activated his evening with a nice hug with Benzema, before receiving a huge tribute, tifo in support, for his 150e selection.
The player even almost scored on a long shot, stopped by Maignan. And he was able to rejoice at the equalization of his people from the sidelines, alongside the whole stadium, happy as if his selection had won.