France 0 - 0 Côte d'Ivoire
You know those times when two teams play a super exciting match despite the 0-0 scoreline? This wasn’t one of those times...
Simply put, France’s draw with Côte d'Ivoire was utterly dreadful to watch, as both teams seemed to put in minimal effort in a game that essentially meant nothing.
This attitude seemed to be sparked by both coaches, as Didier Deschamps showed little tactical influence other than one type of build-up - he simply asked his central midfield trio of Rabiot/Lemar/-Kanté-Pogba/Fekir to bounce passes off of each other to advance play through the middle and into the final third. This usually consisted of Pogba/Fekir making strong off-the-ball movements off of a double-pivot of Rabiot/Lemar-Kanté to break through Côte d'Ivoire’s midfield line.
However, the tactics stopped there, which is part of the reason why France created few real chances. Once they progressed into the final third, the attacking flow stopped, the ball was slapped wide, and players looked lost.
Michel Dussuyer wasn’t really all that more innovative than Deschamps, as he simply instructed his team to play a rough low block mixed with a combative playing style in the hope of springing a counter-attack against a French side in transition. Due to France’s toothlessness in attack, Côte d'Ivoire’s plan worked rather well, as they managed to create quality shots from distance and even threatened the French’s penalty box with dangerous runs and dribbles.
But at the end of the day, that strategy wasn’t enough, and the game deservedly ended 0-0.
Truth be told, there really wasn’t that much for Varane to do defensively. Yes Côte d'Ivoire occasionally threatened, but that was mostly outside the box in pockets of space where Pogba had failed to track back. Whenever things entered the box, Varane usually snuffed things out with ease.
He instead played a bigger role on the ball, acting as an auxiliary central midfielder due to the amount of space Côte d'Ivoire were willing to concede. Varane did a decent job with his distribution and mostly played an elegant game, but there were a couple times where he misplaced passes that you would’ve expected him to complete.
Overall, it was a decent performance from Varane that will serve to slowly build his confidence back after a shaky start to the season.
England 2 - 2 Spain
Spain came out against England in a 3-4-3 (which often changed back into a 4-3-3 when not in possession) looking tired, flat, and uninterested to me.
Additionally, this wasn’t the most dangerous line up Spain could have put out. With the international break ending, I believe Julen Lopetegui decided it was time to rest some players before returning them to their club teams (though Nacho and Carvajal did find themselves find themselves in the starting XI).
The scoring started just 9 minutes into the contest. Jamie Vardy tried to get on the end of a beautiful bent pass into the box, but was taken out by goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
Adam Lallana took the PK and put England up 1-0
Unfortunately for the goal scorer, he came off around the half hour mark (for Theo Walcott) due to a previous injury he was carrying.
With Lallana out, Spain switched formations, reverting to a 4-1-4-1. England put a lot of pressure on Spain after this switch, and Spain responded by trying to play the ball out from the back. This wasn’t the greatest idea, since Pepe Reina was a liability every time he had the ball at his feet.
The half would end England 1 – 0 Spain, with Spain dominating possession, but having only 1 shot on goal to show for it.
Three minutes after the restart, England doubled their score via a diving header from Leicester City man Jamie Vardy (who would did the in-fashion mannequin challenge as a celebration).
England looked pretty confident as they went up 2-0, whilst Spain remained flat and failed to really put anything together.
In the 64th minute, things started to look brighter for the Spaniards as Julen Lopetegui subbed on both Morata and Isco. They would go on to provide a spark to the offense that had been missing in the previous 63 minutes.
Aspas started the comeback with a nice dribble into the box and a well taken goal.
That proved to be a monumental boost to Spain, as they went into stoppage time a completely different team. They looked hungry and played with a sense of urgency that they had been lacking all night.
They were rewarded for their late motivation when Isco leveled things up in the dying embers of the game.
What looked to be a England victory quickly devolved into a 2-2 tie.
Player Rating: 6.5/10
Carvajal got the start on the right side of the defense. With Spain coming out at the start of the match with a 3-4-3, Dani found himself as more of a right wingback with the freedom to get as far up the pitch as he liked. He then reverted to RB as the team changed back to a 4 man back line.
Raheem Sterling was a bit much for Carvajal on the evening. England tried to exploit this as much as they could. A couple different times he was dispossessed which would then start the counter. So suffice it to say, Carvajal didn’t have the best of evenings, as he even picked up a professional yellow card in the second half.
He can play better than he did; we’ve seen him do so on a weekly basis.
Player Rating: 6.5/10
Since Spain started the night with a three man back line, Nacho found himself as a right center back, before then becoming a center-half when the team reverted to a four man back line.
Nacho quietly put together a solid night on defense, as he committed no big mistakes and made some timely clearances. He was even more than responsible for snuffing out an England counter attack once or twice.
Though the defense gave up two goals, Nacho still showed why he is considered to be a quality back-up for Real Madrid.
Player Rating: 7.0/10
Morata was subbed on in the 64th minute and instantly made an impact. He troubled defenders by making some great runs and generally being a pain in the arse, which is what Spain needed on the night. With England keying on him, it created more space for others, like Aspas.
While he didn’t get on the score sheet, he still provided a crucial spark that Spain needed.
Player Rating: 7.5/10
He too was be subbed on in the 64th minute and would go on to make an even greater impact than Morata, scoring the tying goal in stoppage time. We see glimpses of today’s Isco now and then, and if he could just do this on a more consistent basis I think everyone should be happy.
He was the MOTM because of his leveling goal.