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France Has The World Cup Trophy In Their Sights

Jun 06, 2018 11:38 AM EDT

The Odds

  • To win the World Cup: +670
  • To win Group A: -355
  • To advance to Round of 16: -1510

Bet To Watch

France To Win The World Cup +670 (5Dimes)

France might be the most talented team in the tournament. You could probably put together a roster of the French players who missed the cut, and they’d be a top-eight team in the world. And yet, historically, this team never quite delivers (with the notable exception of 1998 when they won the Cup on home soil). Four years ago, after looking impressive over the opening weeks of the tournament, they lost to Germany in the quarterfinals. Two years ago at the Euros — despite having a metric ton of talent on the field and home-field advantage — they lost to Portugal in the final even though Ronaldo got hurt.

The talent is undeniable everywhere on the pitch. Up front, they have stars in  Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe. Their midfield, led by Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, might be the best in the world at the specific things they do (attacking ball progression and defensive ball-stopping, respectively). They have an abundance of effective glue guys as well, players who can help stitch things together in attack either from the wing such as Thomas Lemar, from attacking midfield such as Nabil Fekir or from deeper such as Constantin Tolisso. Need a specialized defensive midfielder off the bench? They’ve got Steven N’Zonzi. How about physical presence in the box? There’s an Olivier Giroud for that. They have everything.

And yet, they still haven’t really put it all together. They’ve don’t have a distinctive attacking style. Despite the flair of their attackers, they tend to play at a slower pace. Despite the ground their midfielders can cover, they tend to keep them positioned conservatively. Manager Didier Deschamps leans into the idea that because his squad is so talented they don’t need to play aggressively. Having great players means they cannot take chances and still score enough goals to win. He’s often been right, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best strategy.

So many of France’s players do their best work in space that the team would be better served trying to leverage the passing ability of Pogba to play it early in transition to the likes of Mbappe in space on the wing. Having Kante should also free Pogba to go storming up the field whenever he sees space to break into.

In an alternate universe, this epic collection of French talent would be a swashbuckling attacking side, unafraid to leave defensive holes, confident that the chances they generated would more than make up it. In reality, the team is too boring for its own good, dependent on moments of magic from its great players to transcend being simply a pretty good team. Then again, those players are so good they could win the World Cup anyway.


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