I wonder if anyone except hardcore French fans thought that the French national team could win the World Cup before the tournament. Even in the group stages they were seen as mediocre at best, a team that barely beat Australia. I do not mean that they were bad, but most certainly there were not the favorites of the tournament. Nevertheless, their true value appeared after the group stages, where everything was square between them and their opponents. It was at that time coach Didier Deschamps' team showed their loyalty to the new principle of football; whatever you do, do it collectively.
Obviously they were not Belgium, England or Croatia on offense; they did not have a distinguished strategy in the front. But give the devil his due; they defended better than almost any team in the tournament. Although they conceded 3 goals from Argentina and 2 from Croatia, all of those goals can be classified as absurdly rare. Their defensive shape and movements were near perfect. They did not let their opponents settle in front of their penalty box and forced them to play panicked crosses from the wings. Luckily for them, their opponents did not have talented offensive scheme to stretch their defense and punish them.
So, without having a serious offensive strategy, they were able to punish their opponents with swift counterattacks. Of course this strategy worked only against already attacking teams, and France had trouble finding opportunities against opponents like Australia and Denmark. But after the group stages, this was not a problem, since only Uruguay tried to defend against them. France could not find opportunities easily again, but dead balls and goalkeeping mistakes came to the rescue. Thus, with some luck, France advanced to the trophy with their strict belief in collective defending.
This gives an important message about the future of football to all of us. Collective action prevailed over individual talent, and teams that utilize collective action are categorically above individualistic ones. This collectivist approach is more crucial on defense than on offense. It is almost impossible not to concede goals without strict collective defending, but it is still possible to find opportunities with individualistic offensive approaches. Since attacking is inherently harder than defending, coaches often divert their energy to creating a high quality defensive strategy, so they increase their chances of winning by not conceding goals, rather than scoring them.
This is certainly sad new for all football fans around the world, but this is the point we have come with the mentality of winning first. Football needs to be regulated and downsized financially to create a less stressful, more enjoyable atmosphere. France rightly won the tournament by being the most fanatic worshiper of the new era of football, but I have doubts whether this era will lift football higher. I will talk about a way to save the enjoyment in the next article.
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