FRANCK FIFE via Getty Images
FOOTBALL – The French team ran out of air against Luka Modric’s Croatia and its hostile public, this Monday, June 6 in the sweltering heat of Split (1-1), resting all its executives but chaining a second meeting without victory in the League of Nations.
Without Kylian Mbappé, Karim Benzema or their captain Hugo Lloris, all sitting on a bench of five-star substitutes, the Blues thought they were performing the perfect operation after the opener from Adrien Rabiot (52nd).
1 – Jonathan Clauss is the first player of the French team to concede a penalty after entering during play since Moussa Sissoko against the Netherlands on November 16, 2018 in the League of Nations. Whoops. #CROFRApic.twitter.com/Vgbta65yaP
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 6, 2022
And without the masterful parades of Mike Maignan (71st, 87th), the men of Didier Deschamps would have left the Balkans with a zero point.
With one point in two games, France is nevertheless very seriously complicating the task with a view to qualifying for the “Final 4”. It will be necessary to react on Friday in Austria, before welcoming the Croats on June 13 for the return leg.
In Vienna on Friday, the atmosphere may not be as overheated as that of the Poljud stadium, the open-air lair of Hajduk Split, housed between the Mosor massif and the Adriatic Sea.
This framework, unprecedented for France, gave ideas to coach Didier Deschamps, eager to “raise his head” as well as to preserve the organisms put to the test by the heat and an exhausting 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. Mbappé, still embarrassed on one knee, 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.
Acclaimed Modric, precious Kimpembe
If the objective of the evening was to regain solidity after the breaches seen against the Danes, it was only partially achieved, with an end to the game to forget and multiple inaccuracies at the start of the match, which could have cost very expensive.
Even Tchouaméni, usually sober and precise despite his 22 years, was clumsy by losing a few balloons, like Pavard and William Saliba.
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.
The Parisian was precious, like his former PSG partner Moussa Diaby, very available and close to opening the scoring with a shot deflected by Dominik Livakovic (39th).
Opposite, the vibrant songs of the 30,000 Croatian supporters guided the “Vatreni” also in reconquest after suffering a humiliation at home on Friday, against Austria (3-0).
The local attraction, logically, was called Luka Modric. The Real Madrid playmaker, recently crowned European champion, started his evening with a nice hug with Benzema, before receiving a huge tribute, tifo in support, for his 150th selection.
He even almost scored on a long shot, stopped by Maignan. And he was able to gloat over the equalizer, twelve minutes later from the sidelines, alongside the whole stadium, happy as after a victory.
See also on The HuffPost: No World Cup for Ukraine but “much bigger battles”