France 0-0 Switzerland: improvement needed from Les Bleus

france swiss

France 0-0 Switzerland –

If the atmosphere among opposing fans before Sunday night’s 0-0 draw in Lille could be described as friendly and relaxed, it could be deemed overly so on the football pitch. France and Switzerland were willing to let one another have the ball for long spells, with neither doing enough to create chances and bring their strikers, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Breel Embolo respectively, into play.

It took a complete forward to lead the line in such circumstances and neither were quite up to the mark. 30-year-old Gignac lacked the pace to run in behind Johan Djourou and the impressive Fabian Schar while Embolo, 11 years his junior, was a willing runner but lacked bravery in battles with Laurent Koscielny.

The Arsenal centre-back shared a pitch for the first time with Granit Xhaka since the midfielder signed for the Gunners. Not only did the 23-year-old rarely misplace a pass, his distribution had a sense of direction, finding wide players such as Admir Mehmedi and Xherdan Shaqiri in space. Mehmedi showed some nice touches and worked hard to block the path of Bacary Sagna early on while Shaqiri improved as the game progressed.

The Swiss played on the counter in the first half hour but their end product was limited. Vladimir Petkovic’s side registered no shots on target all evening, perhaps due to a reluctance to commit midfielders forward. Even Blerim Dzemaili, categorized as a number 10, rarely broke into the box, instead choosing to tighten central areas.

France had the better of the play and hit the crossbar twice, once through Paul Pogba in the first half and again through Dimitri Payet, who made an impact after arriving for the final half hour. And yet, there was still a disjointed feel to this French team. They appeared to give the ball to big name players and hope for a powerful run or a moment of individual magic, without considering the tactical implications of their play.

Moussa Sissoko went on one menacing run but offered little else all evening while Antoine Griezmann looked out of sorts on the right. With Sagna and Patrice Evra aging, pace and width did not come from full-backs. Kingsley Coman was the only player capable of providing this but had little joy on the left against Stephan Lichtsteiner, and equally little against Ricardo Rodriguez when briefly moved to the other side.

Switzerland defended well and Vladimir Petkovic will be encouraged that his side can compete against the tournament’s favourites. It was an uninspiring performance from France, who are yet to identify their best team, though Payet’s displays should make the West Ham wizard a strong contender to start. There remains big decisions for Didier Deschamps, which he will need to get right if France are to live up to their favourites tag.

It is healthy for football that fans of these nations are friendly and relaxed with one another, but on the field, such pleasantries must end for both teams to progress.