France head coach Didier Deschamps has a lot of options at his disposal as he mulls his team selection for each game at the 2014 World Cup. Les Bleus have now reached the quarterfinal stage and will play Germany on Friday in Rio de Janeiro, and which options Deschamps chooses to go with will be a huge factor in deciding the outcome of that game.
Up until this stage, Deschamps has rotated his team, trying different options to varying degrees of success. One player who has been a mixed success is Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud. Giroud has started two of the four games so far, playing well and scoring a goal against Switzerland but then being less effective and ultimately substituted after 62 minutes against Nigeria.
Giroud is always is a goal threat when he is on the pitch and can certainly have a role to play in many games for France in the future, but the match against Germany is not one of those games. Deschamps needs a quick and mobile attack against the Germans, and Giroud obviously does not come into that category.
Against Algeria in the second round, Germany struggled with the pacy and direct runs in behind their defense of Hilal Soudani, Sofiane Feghouli and Islam Slimani. Algeria pressed for the ball and then played quick, direct passes in behind the German defense for their speedy attackers to chase, and it was hugely successful for the Algerians over the course of the game.
The German defense is not the most mobile right now. With center-backs currently playing out of position at full back due to injuries and Philipp Lahm‘s move into central midfield, Algeria exploited that weakness perfectly; and with a bit more quality, they could have dumped the Germans out there and then.
The obvious changes for Germany would be to move Lahm back to right-back and then perhaps play youngster Erik Durm at left-back, but those moves look very unlikely, so center-backs will likely continue to play in the wide areas against France. It is a risky strategy by Germany coach Joachim Low but one he seems determined to stick by. Deschamps should be happy about that, and he should now work his team around exploiting it.
With Giroud on the bench, Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena should make up the attacking front three for France. In the event of any injuries, Loic Remy should be picked ahead of Giroud for this game for his own pace and direct running in behind defenses.
Griezmann and Valbuena have more to offer in terms of build-up play, though, and they should, ideally, both start the game. Although, any combination of those three players should be more than capable of troubling the German defenders in much the same way the Algeria attack did.
One crucial difference, though, is that France have a lot more quality in their attack than Algeria did. That could spell trouble for Germany, if France do indeed manage to mimic the Algeria strategy. It could spell success for France, although it does require Giroud to start from the bench — for this game, at least.