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International Break Recap

Varane solid for France; Ceballos and Odegaard shine with U-21s

Raphael Varane played the full 90 for France in their win over Belarus; while Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard were standouts at the U-21 level. Below is a round-up.

*Note: Cristiano Ronaldo also played in Portugal’s big game today against Switzerland. That report, along with Casemiro’s match tonight for Brazil, will come in a different post.

Varane played the full 90 in France’s 2-1 win over Belarus. It was a convincing win, overall, for a team that was missing Kante and Pogba due to injury; while Kylian Mbappe came off the bench in the second half.

France were ball-dominant, and much of the build-up from the back came through Varane, who was often the deepest player for Deschamps’s men. From there, Varane distributed the ball well, and his pace made it almost impossible for Belarus to break past France’s defensive line.

With the ball, he was ubber-cool:

Offensively, France would try to score from the flanks — taking advantage of the width from Coman, Lemar, Digne, and Sidibe; as well as Giroud’s presence in the box. They were also dangerous from set-pieces, where Varane nearly scored the opening goal:

For the most part, Belarus defended those crosses well. It was ironic then, that both of France’s goals actually came through the middle, gifted by some non-sensible defending from Belarus. On the opener, they left Antoinne Greizmann completely alone in the box as the Atletico forward received a great through-pass from Blaise Matuidi. On an ensuing play, and their second goal conceded, Belarus gave the ball away to Greizmann from their backline — an unforced turnover which allowed Giroud to pounce on after being the recipient of Greizmann’s pass.

Something that France will be disappointed with is their finish to the first half, where Saroka (virtually the only player on Belarus who looked like scoring tonight, and even missed two clear-cut chances on his own), beat Varane to a cross to pull one back:

Nitpicking, to be sure. France should’ve blown this game open, and they’ll be happy to have both feet in the World Cup next summer (if you want to hear our Spain vs France discussion, you should do so here).

The Real Madrid youngsters have also been encouraging during this international break. Dani Ceballos, Jesus Vallejo, and Borja Mayoral all started against Slovakia today in Euro U-21 qualifying, where Spain won 4-1. While Vallejo didn’t have much to deal with (Slovakia’s only goal came from a free-kick scored on a wonky-positioned wall), he did captain Celades’s side. Borja Mayoral didn’t score, though he had plenty of chances to do so, and at least, he was a mazy dribbler and was very dynamic in attack. Dani Ceballos, on the other hand, scored Spain’s fourth goal, with a long-range shot that took a deflection.

Ceballos, along with Carlos Soler (both of whom, in my opinion, should be heading to Russia this summer; though the former almost surely won’t), Mikel Merino, and Mikel Oyarzabal (good Lord this nation is insultingly deep) were the standouts today. They all were smooth with their touches, and dictated the game for Spain.

Elsewhere, Martin Odegaard was great for Norway’s U-21 team. Yours truly was spread a little thin today, so he didn’t get a chance to watch, but you should follow this thread for his performance against Germany:

And ICYMI back on Tuesday, Achraf Hakimi played as a LEFT-back on Tuesday for Morocco, and did very well:

Achraf, left back.

Achraf played as a left back with Morocco, and did well. Another versatile option for Zidane. Dangerous going forward as he is on the right, and his crossing was good too -- with both feet. Really interested to see him develop over the next few years.

Posted by Kiyan Sobhani on Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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