Despite some doubts over injuries going into the World Cup, France quickly buried any chance of getting hit by the "champions' curse" and is now the first team to have qualified for the knockout round.
And they are doing it with the style and composure of a champion, with a solid possession game led by an Antoine Griezmann reborn as a midfielder, a defense that is looking increasingly solid aside from some set piece issues, and the inevitable Kylian Mbappé.
France started this game with the same nominal 4-2-3-1 as against Australia, even though it looks many times like a 4-3-3 in possession. However, we saw several rotations in the defensive line. Theo Hernández continues taking the place of his injured brother Lucas, our old friend Varane replaced Ibrahima Konaté, and Jules Koundé replaced Benjamin Pavard.
Deschamps' solution has led to one of the most free-flowing midfields in the tournament. Tchouaméni often plays as the single pivot, Rabiot as the left interior, and Griezmann as the right interior. However, there is a lot of movement and rotation among them. Griezmann and Rabiot will switch sides, sometimes they will show up at the base collecting the ball from the center backs, and sometimes Tchouaméni will be the one moving forward to press.
In this unit, Tchouaméni continues to stand out as a pivot that screens the behind the midfield and forward pressing lines, cutting any incoming attacks. He's also critical in counter-pressing phases when France must regain possession right after losing the ball. He continued to deliver an excellent defensive work rate with six tackles + interceptions and was always a secure option in possession, misplacing only one pass throughout the game for 99% accuracy.
Despite Tchouaméni's security in possession, he had more impact on France's attack this time. He came close to scoring in the 78th minute from a header that bounced off a Danish defender, and he set up a big chance for Griezmann with an outstanding long pass aimed at the back of the Danish defense. His passing was also involved in the possession sequences that led to both French goals. This is why the passing network for this game shows him as the French player with the highest xGChain metric, which measures the players who were most involved in possession sequences leading to shots.
As for the rest of France, they delivered a very strong collective performance. From Rabiot playing well again this season, Griezmann acting as connective tissue in possession once again, and the Theo and Mbappé duo on the left having a significant impact in the final third. In the 61st minute, their combination led to France's first goal.
France conceded in the 68th minute after a disconnection during a Danish corner, leading to two headers in the box that led to the goal. In the 86th minute, however, Griezann would cap his outstanding game in possession with an assist, a pinpoint cross to the far post that Mbappé touched with his thigh and past Schmeichel.
This France-Denmark was a knockout level tie and aside from some defensive disconnections in the second half, France passed the test with flying colors. Looking like a proper title candidate. #FRADEN pic.twitter.com/OAO0Tmv8vK— José C. Pérez (@jcperez_) November 26, 2022
Despite this defensive disconnection, France generated significantly more than their opponents, who are one of the tournament's most ordered and compact defensive structures. Their mix of defensive power (which snuffed out Denmark's attacks almost entirely during the first half), their newfound possession game with Griezmann, and the decisiveness of Mbappé are significant arguments for France making another deep run in this World Cup.
But meanwhile, Deschamps will get to rest some of his starters in the upcoming game against Tunisia on November 30th.