Raphael Varane puts in another great shift with the French national team as he played the full 90 in their 2 - 1 win against the Netherlands.
These notes won’t necessarily be as detailed as those earlier laid out on Gareth Bale, and that’s a testament to France’s scheme protecting Varane quite well. That, and a combination of other things (which we’ll get to), ensured an impressive France win.
Varane captained this French team and made the game look easy. One thing that helped: The Dutch’s refusal to exert pressure high up the pitch. As you’ll note by Varane’s heat map below, him and Umtiti were allowed to have the ball high up the pitch (relative for a center back) without any resistance from an orange shirt. The Netherlands were vulnerable defending vertical passes despite having numbers in midfield, and Pogba and Griezmann slung some really beautiful passes throughout this match to hit Mbappe’s menacing off-ball runs.
The Netherlands, apart from a short spell in the second half where Babel got in front of Pavard to score the equalizer, and some ensuing moments afterwards, were quite underwhelming. On France’s opening goal, the defending was disastrous. They gave the ball away deep, and didn’t mark Mbappe at the far post:
France weathered the storm in the second half, and it didn’t take long for them to regain their lead. As soon as I tweeted this; this happened:
⚽️ GIROUD! ⚽️— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) September 9, 2018
Stunning volley from the Chelsea striker who was picked out by Benjamin Mendy and France are back in front.
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Varane’s performance overall was cool. When the Netherlands had possession, France shielded him well with two solid banks. There were sequences in this game where the Dutch had possession for two minutes straight and France didn’t look unnerved in the least. That’s the kind of impressive performance it was from Deschamps’s men.
There was a moment in the second half where Umtiti let Wijnaldum behind him, but Varane rushed over to cover for him and close the angle of the shot. Varane also had nine clearances — the most of any player on the pitch.
Elsewhere, Toni Kroos played the full 90 against Peru in Germany’s 2-1 friendly win. I have no idea what happened there, as I was spread thin. I’m sure we’ll dedicate 10 seconds to it on tonight’s podcast.