Having impressed in both of France’s opening World Cup games in Qatar, Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembélé’s form presents a selection conundrum for coach Didier Deschamps as the tournament heads toward the knock out stages.
Despite usually playing with a trio of centre-backs in the game leading up to the tournament in Qatar, Deschamps stated upon the unveiling of his squad that he would revert to a four-man defence. Many assumed that this would mean a return to the asymmetrical 4-2-3-1 that helped France win the 2018 World Cup.
So far, however, France have deployed a more conventional version of that setup, dispensing with the shuttling presence of Blaise Matuidi on the left, a dynamic defensive presence of four years ago, for the pacey and skilful winger, Dembélé. Given the 2018 system’s effectiveness and the injury to Karim Benzema, meaning Olivier Giroud’s return to the side’s attack, Deschamps could yet utilise it against tougher opposition deeper in the tournament with Adrien Rabiot likely to take Matuidi’s place on the left.
The in-form Dembélé, however, could have done enough to convince Deschamps to keep his current system against rival teams from the last 16 onwards but, despite this being the most exciting option overall – as Dembélé proved against Denmark and Australia – it remains to be seen if this would be the most effective set-up for France against Brazil, Spain or England, for example.