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Varane starts in France’s 1-1 draw against Ukraine

Meanwhile, Luka Jović was subbed in for just 8 minutes in Serbia’s 3-2 victory over Ireland.

France v Ukraine - Qualifying World Cup 2022 Photo by Anthony Dibon/Icon Sport via Getty Images

Raphäel Varane and France began their road to the 2022 World Cup with a match against Ukraine that ended in a bittersweet 1-1. The French controlled the game almost the entire time and had more and better chances (19 shots vs Ukraine’s 3), but they couldn’t capitalize on them.

Ferland Mendy is in the French squad but was not listed in the match-day squad for this Wednesday game.

Varane played the full 90 minutes at his usual right center back position and was paired up with Presnel Kimpembe. It was a quiet evening for Varane, who barely had to do any meaningful defensive actions.

Opposition striker Roman Yaremchuk was usually tracked by Kimpembe, with Varane simply acting as the last line of defense in case someone made it past his other teammates in defense. Varane also had a quiet game with the ball, not being a liability nor a huge asset to the team with his passing. Kimpembe had more impact carrying the ball forward and making line-breaking passes, while Varane focused on delivering longer balls into space for right-back Benjamin Pavard and right-winger Kingsley Coman.

Varane bears no blame for Ukraine’s goal, an own goal in which a shot off-target from Illia Zabarnyi unexpectedly bounced off Kimpembe and into Hugo Lloris’ goal.

From a tactical perspective, France played in their usual 4-2-3-1. The team was very direct in possession, looking for quick combinations on the wing or passes into space for the aggressive fullbacks—Lucas Hernandez on the left and Benjamin Pavard on the right. Griezmann had a free role, often dropping into midfield and even receiving the ball directly from his defenders. He scored a stunning goal at the 19th minute, beautifully curling a shot from outside the box with his left foot.

Despite all their talent, Deschamp’s France plays much better on the counter and struggles to create good chances when they have possession and must take the initiative. Unfortunately for them, they had to do the latter against the 5-4-1 deep block set up by Ukraine’s manager, the legendary Andriy Shevchenko.

Varane, Mendy, and France will continue their World Cup qualification journey on Sunday against Kazakhstan. Perhaps we can see some more action from Mendy this time around and maybe some rest for Varane. The decisive part of the season for Real Madrid will start after the international break and it would be in Los Blancos’ best interests for Varane to not play all the minutes for Les Bleus and increase his injury chances.

Jović plays only 8 minutes in Serbia’s victory

In other news, Luka Jović—on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt—started on the bench in Serbia’s exciting 3-2 victory over Ireland and came on as a substitute in the 82nd minute for Dusan Vlahović. With Serbia sitting back and letting Ireland take the initiative in those final minutes, Jović had no impact in the game, with only 3 touches of the ball and zero meaningful offensive actions (no shots, dribbles, key passes, etc).

The match featured two goals from Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrović, who was subbed in at the 63rd minute and in seven minutes scored twice to turn the tables on the Irish. Serbia’s three assists came from Ajax’s Dusan Tadić, arguably the most impactful forward of the Dutch Eredivisie. Serbia’s next game will be this Saturday against Portugal and here’s to hoping Jović can get more minutes against them.