For this international friendly both teams were supposedly lining up in a 4-4-2 system in theory mirroring each other.
France with Bouhaddi, Houara D’Hommeaux Georges Renard Majri, Thomis Henry Abily Necib, Le Sommer Thiney
USA with Harris, Klingenberg Engen Sauerbrunn Chalupny, Heath Brian Holiday Lloyd, Press Morgan
Tactics and systems
Phillipe Bergeroo playing his best 11 that will probably start the game against England at the World Cup, except for an injury of huge loss of form of course. Majri seem to have overtaken definitely Boulleau for the left back spot. There was no surprise for the 10 other players as the team is now well settled. Obviously Necib started on the left but with freedom to roam through the middle, unlike Thomis on the other wing who is more of a classic winger and does not come inside very often.
Jill Ellis doing a bit of experiment going to 4-4-2 after using the 4-3-3 in 2014. : Harris in goal for Solo who was obviously unavailable, Klingenberg at right back rather than Krieger, Chalupny at left back. Holiday and Brian in central midfield with Heath on the right and Lloyd on the left. Up front two speedy and technically strong forwards Press and Morgan. Wambach sitting on the bench.
It was interesting to note the similar pairing in central midfield with Henry / Abily on one side and Holiday / Brian on the other side. Both sides coupling a defensive midfielder with an attacking player slightly higher on the pitch. Although we saw during the game that Henry made many forwards run following her ball winning actions, unlike Holiday who was rarely seen venturing forwards. Henry and Abily managed to break the US midfield line enough time to make Jill Ellis reconfigure that area later in the game.
As she explained in the post-game press conference, Ellis tried a kind of 4-2-2-2 with the outside players tucking inside leaving all the wing space to the full backs Klingenberg and Chalupny. Well that did not happen very often for the US full backs. Note for those old enough to remember the 80’s men football. France did use that kind of set-up with the famous magical square of Tigana, Fernandez, Giresse and Platini. You can also note in the recent book on Guardiola’s first season at Bayern Munich the same use of wide players going inside rather than playing wide with Lahm and Alaba. That idea is definitely an interesting concept.
Ellis also mentioned when I asked her about using the quick transition that led to many USA chances, which they had been working on those in camps. France were certainly vulnerable when they lost the ball in the middle third and Morgan or Press would be found running behind Georges and Renard. Although chances were created this way none ended up in a goal. Had the USA forwards been more clinical, the game could have turned differently.
One important point that has not been often mentioned is France have worked very hard on their strength and conditioning since 2013, with Fred Aubert given licence to push the players. When the USA beat France at the 2012 Olympics by 4-2, there was a huge gap in physical strength and the French girls were knackered past the hour mark. Now that the French girls are level with the American girls on the physical side of the game, they can implement their technical football freely.
On the defensive shape side, USA used the classic 2 banks of 4 players to defend while France where slightly less rigid in term of defensive formation.
Regarding the attacking scheme: France tried to build up attack using both wings alternatively and percussion through the middle, while the USA game plan seemed to sit and catch France on the break with quick passes behind the defence. When the USA went to 2-0 down, they struggled to build up play and have a good possession based football to break down the French defence. It is important to note that France started with 8 players from Lyon who therefore know each other very well and have been playing for many years together and have a strong understanding. This sometimes lead to a player like Thiney being isolated up front.
Game management and substitutions (subs in bold, player moving position in italics)
40 ‘ Kenza Dali came on for Louisa Necib as the French playmaker was injured. Dali played in the classical winger role on the left side, the French game tending to go more on the right win towards Thomis for a while which led to 2 goals before getting more balanced again.
France team (4-4-2 ) …., Thomis Henry Abily Dali, …
54’ France scored 2 quick goals on the attacking right side and straight after Chalupny is hooked replaced by Krieger. Probably to stop the French flow on that side.
USA team (4-4-2 ) Harris, Krieger Engen Sauerbrunn Klingenberg, …..
62’ Wambach comes in for Brian, she goes up front to dynamise the US team and try to get goals as USA need to go on the attack.
USA team (4-4-2 ) …, Press Lloyd Holiday Heath, Wambach Morgan
64’ Wambach gets a penalty that is saved by Bouhaddi.
72’ France react to the attacking save with Lavogez and Bussaglia coming in for Thomis and Le Sommer, switch to a more defensive 4-3-3 with Henry in front on the defence.
France team ( 4-3-3) triangle, Henry Abily Bussaglia, Lavogez Thiney Dali
76’ Rodriguez replaces Heath USA also switch to 4-3-3 mirroring France system, although it could qualify as a 4-2-4 depending on how you asses Press and Rodriguez positions on the pitch.
USA (4-3-3 ) flat Press Lloyd Holiday, Morgan Wambach Rodriguez
82’ another defensive change for France with Hamraoui the enforcer coming on at defensive midfield replacing the more attacking Abily with Henry playing higher now alongside Bussaglia.
France (4-3-3 ) triangle Hamraoui Henry Bussaglia
86’ Delie replaces Thiney up front as the center forward is tired
France (4-3-3 ) …., Lavogez Delie Dali
Interesting game management from both managers. A bit like a chess game. USA making attacking moves and France countering them with a defensive system changes. Then USA adding another forward on the pitch and France adding an extra defensive midfielder to counter that extra attacking player.
The USA are a very good side, the main problem being the heart of the team ie the midfield central area where they clearly lost the battle in that 2v2. A balance need to be found there or go back to 4-3-3 to strengthen that area.