It was a calm day in the office for Les Bleus as they dispatched Kazakhstan with ease with an early hat trick from Kylian Mbappé in the first half-hour of the game. His total tally for the night was four goals and one assist.
The back three experiments that France manager Didier Deschamps began in September continue to breathe some fresh air into a stale French offense. This change seems to have improved how France plays out from the back, especially with creative passing center backs like Jules Koundé and Dayot Upamecano.
The big news this time around is that Deschamps benched long-time favorite Benjamin Pavard for Kingsley Coman for the right-wingback role. This move gave France's offense a much-needed boost, with Coman's dribbling prowess consistently disordering Kazakhstan's defense (attempted nine dribbles, completed six) and creating chances (three key passes, two assists). Meanwhile, Theo Hernández also delivered with good runs behind the defense and two assists on the left side.
While Mbappé's performance takes the spotlight tonight, Benzema played a solid game too. It's interesting to see how he can play the alpha and omega of Real Madrid's offense while with France, he's more than happy to let Griezmann and Mbappé have more of the ball while he focuses on playing off them and finishing plays in the box. And the trio is getting increasingly better at playing off each other and not stepping in each other's areas of action. In this game, Mbappé focused more on the left half-space, Griezmann focused on the right half-space, while Benzema floated around, linking up the pieces in France's attack.
Sometimes that meant that Benzema would move to the left to have the ball and let Mbappé get into the box. In the first goal, at the 6th minute, Benzema took the ball and waited for Theo's underlapping run, releasing the ball in just the right moment for the French wingback to run past his man and deliver an accurate cutback to Mbappé.
The second half saw scoring action from Benzema. In the 56th minute, Theo managed to squeeze past two defenders and latch onto a pass from his brother Lucas, delivering another tight and accurate cutback to Benzema, who attacked the near post.
Three minutes later, Benzema scored another. He received a pass in between the lines from Rabiot, slipped a through ball to Mbappé, who may have been able to finish by himself but preferred to pass it back to Karim for a safer finish and France's fifth goal. Benzema was substituted at the 71st minute for Moussa Diaby, who assisted Mbappé's fourth goal and completed the 8-0 for France.
All in all, France still lacks compactness in defense, but their offense has gotten more fun since Deschamps switched to the back three and wingbacks. After the Coman-as-RWB experiment went so well today, it shouldn't be surprising if Deschamps decides to use it for future games.
France leads Group D with 15 points, and this Tuesday, they will face second-place Finland. Mbappé, Benzema, and co. will have to deal with a much better-organized defense in this game.