France Exploits Space Behind Switzerland's Attack-minded Full-backs
One of the most interesting feats in France’s philosophy under Didier Deschamps is their efficiency on the break and their high pressing.
Karim Benzema displayed his ability to play from the left flank in a 4-3-3 in a friendly against Jamaica, and Deschamps opted to field the Real Madrid striker in this role against Switzerland.
However, two key factors in Switzerland’s system is their defensive solidity, and width from their fullbacks, and here, France exploited both areas in their 5-2 drubbing of Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men. Steve Von Bergen’s injury in the opening 10 minutes forced Hitzfeld to introduce Philippe Senderos alongside Johan Djourou. The duo is far from formidable, while Stephan Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez’s willingness to push into advanced positions left Switzerland’s defence vulnerable.
Switzerland, however, rely heavily on their attacking four for creativity and goals, but the quartet easily squandered possession in the final third, and chief creator Xherdan Shaqiri was hesitant to play a final ball. Likewise, France struggled to create legitimate goal scoring opportunities from open play, but they were in control of the match due to their pressing without the ball.
Moussa Sissoko and Blaise Matuidi kept Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami quiet in midfield, while France’s back four were quick to close down the Swiss attackers. Olivier Giroud’s fantastic header steered France into the lead, but it was the pressure of Cabaye and the French striker that won the corner.
Deschamps’ men doubled their lead 66 seconds later when Matuidi’s press forced Behrami to concede possession to Benzema, and the striker played a pass into space behind Lichtsteiner – he and Rodriguez were oddly yards ahead of the two centrebacks – for the midfielder to fire a near post shot past goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.
France continued to exploit space behind Lichtsteiner shortly afterwards, as the Swiss right-back surged forward and played a poor pass to Cabaye. The French midfielder quickly facilitated the ball into the left channel for Benzema who subsequently took on Djourou and forced the Swiss centreback to concede a penalty.
The third goal came from the same flank, but Hitzfeld’s set-piece set-up was quite peculiar, as they left one defender at the back. Deschamps’ side quickly broke out of their half with Benzema holding up the ball away from Lichtsteiner before laying the ball off to Raphael Varane, and the centreback strung a pass to Giroud in the left channel, and his cross into the box was tapped into the goal by Mathieu Valbuena.
France was out of sight by half time, but the introduction of Blerim Dzemaili provided the attacking impetus that Behrami doesn’t possess. As France’s defense dropped off, Switzerland’s front four got into better positions, but their quality in the final third prevented a possible come-back.
France’s pressing was key in their victory over Hitzfeld’s men, as they constantly tormented the Swiss defense on the break.
Still, the advanced positioning of the fullbacks, particularly Lichtsteiner, left Switzerland exposed in the right channel.