France beat Poland and more in today’s World Cup daily newspaper
Today, England and France were eyeing each other on their respective opponents, the only drama being whether or not they would get caught looking too far ahead. They certainly didn’t, engaging in an “Anything you can do..” dance that set them up for a brilliant quarter-final on Friday. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts.
Match of the day – France 3 – 1 Poland
Either choice would have been fine, if I had the right to give myself an escape or an excuse, as the two games followed somewhat the same pattern. The chatter for the past two days has been about what to do against a team that sits next to you and tries to nullify your space in midfield, thanks to the United States’ struggle against such a team. . One answer is “to have Kylian Mbappé”. Unfortunately, this is only available to one team in this tournament.
It’s obviously more complicated than that, but not by much. Poland did their usual Poland thing, which was to pack five in midfield and hopefully limit Antoine Griezmann’s access to the ball while keeping Mbappé and Dembele wide. The Poles actually looked a bit more aggressive, a low bar for them admittedly the few times they had the ball and might have had the better chances in the first half. Hugo Lloris had to pull off a superb save to not fall behind shockingly, plus a goal-line clearance from Raphael Varane to boot.
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But that was about it for the Poland threat, because it is Poland. And you can plan to keep Mbappé out or load him up with extra defenders, and he’s always going to get you open. To open the scoring for France, he only had to draw in just enough defenders to find an aisle to slip a through ball to Olivier Giroud, which is the unannounced part of his game:
Again, it’s beyond easy and cliché to say that goals change games, but when the team that’s the favorite and faced low block all night scores first, she flips everything on her head. Poland could no longer just hold on and hope. Which means more space for France, which means Mbappé has more space, which means…
The second goal, which is unfair and rude, received most of the applause, but the first is also elevated to stupid. You’re not supposed to be able to beat a keeper, especially one with the tournament Szczesny has been so far, effortlessly at the near post. Poland probably thought they had it all covered, just for a moment, given that it looked like Mbappé had waited too long and his options were running low. Except he always has an exit, he always has an option. I guess any player still has an option if “Throw a Hadoken with one shot with minimal recoil” is holstered.
If France have a concern, and it’s hard to say if they do, it’s that Poland were able to attack them occasionally on their right flank, where Jules Kounde looked a bit out of place as a back right. England are certainly not short of options on the left side of their attack. But then, when you have No. 10 in your attack, are you sometimes so worried?
Other results: England 3 – 0 Senegal
It will be swept away after the final score, but England didn’t look good before taking the lead, and just like Poland, Senegal had the best chance with the score at 0-0. Both teams will spend a moment wondering what would have happened if they could have finished. On such margins…
Much like France, just like Argentina, just like the United States itself, England faced a disciplined opponent whose first, second and third objective was to defend and cut space. But while France and Argentina appealed for otherworldly individual brilliance, England went the route of otherworldly team brilliance for their first goal:
That’s what the United States couldn’t do, but the United States has neither Harry Kane nor Jude Bellingham. Bellingham moves a little wider and goes a little deeper, Kane does his thing where he goes deeper but behind the opponent’s halfway line. The England defense send a ball through the lines to Kane who can then throw a pass to Bellingham who rushes, whose touch is so soft and silky that your knees disappear and he can control it at full speed and start running at the Senegalese defense. Henderson follows him down the middle, both sides of the midfield goal who had been tasked with marking them and denying them passes from the England defence. Kane completely reverses the game on them. .
Just like France, the game changes when England take the lead, because Senegal couldn’t wait. While in the United States, Jesus Ferreira only occasionally tries this, and also has a terminal case of “being Jesus Ferreira” and not Harry Kane. The American midfielder wasn’t determined enough to go deeper or wider to try to lose his markers or provide space for his forwards to dive. And they just don’t have that level of talent. That’s how you get what we had here last week (or Saturday, so to speak). This is how you become England, prancing around the quarters and looking like a real favorite for the whole thing.
Senegal weren’t great when they had to take the lead in this tournament as England really only had to focus on Ismaila Sarr. They were fairly easily singled out for goals two and three:
Life is easier when you have Jude Bellingham to dribble through an entire midfield.
England-France, it’s almost too good for a quarter-final, but it’s our delight. England’s strength, the Rice-Bellingham axis in midfield, is exactly where France have suffered a few injuries and are therefore a little inexperienced. Griezmann makes them dangerous but he also leaves them a bit light in the middle. But they also have Mbappé, who is the answer to everything.
goal of the day
It’s a tie between England the first, a symphony of passage and movement, and the third by Mbappé. We’ve already posted both, so you can decide:
Did VAR screw up?
Not today, Satan.
Did FIFA/Qatar screw something up?
No, but now it feels good that every game broadcast doesn’t need a picture of Gianni Infantino in his fucking suite sitting in his fucking recliner every fucking time. It’s a reminder of how we ended up with this hellish tournament. Don’t forget originally FIFA thought they could do this thing in the summer in Qatar because all the people who voted weren’t just paying millions of dollars (allegedly) but they didn’t have to worry about the heat. They went from their air-conditioned hotel suites to their air-conditioned limos to their air-conditioned skybox at the stadium and back again. Seeing Infantino sitting in a game every game he attends is just about the most stark image of how such a thing as this ridiculous tournament could happen, because the guys making decisions are just the guys at to sit in that type of chair at that part of the stadium, only considering guys who sit in that type of chair in that part of the stadium.
Did Alexi Lalas say something stupid?
After two weeks, it becomes increasingly difficult to make out the words Lalas is saying more than hearing his voice sound like a constant buzz. It’s aggravating that Fox’s coverage of this has attempted to emulate the most annoying habit of their NFL coverage, which is that their analysts not only narrate reruns (not their work), but also try to look funny and cool while doing it. Lalas’ trick today was to do the post-match highlights of France’s win, trying to publicize and tease his Power Rankings to follow as if we were expecting them at the same level of the CFP classification. Power ratings are a curse for all sports coverage, even more so when a fool like Lalas creates them and justifies changing them based on a game or a half, and even more beyond that when he treats them as a final tablet on the state of the game today. NOBODY WORRIED.