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Will France go all the way?

Didier Deschamps became only the third manager in history to take a team to three consecutive World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday. He followed in the footsteps of West Germany duo Sepp Herberger and Helmut Schon by overseeing a 3-1 victory over Poland at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.

In many ways it was a typical France performance. They did not have everything their own way, particularly in the first half. Had Poland been more clinical in front of goal, they could have held a half-time lead. Instead, France’s extraordinary firepower in the final third made the difference, as Olivier Giroud opened the scoring and Kylian Mbappe notched a superb brace after the break.

For a top team, France routinely give their opponents a chance. They do not press high up the pitch. They allow the other side to bring the ball out and are happy to give up a sizable share of possession.

Australia, Denmark, Tunisia and Poland were all able to create chances against the reigning world champions, who are seeking to become only the third team to win back-to-back editions of this tournament (after Italy in 1934 and 1938, and Brazil in 1958 and 1962).

Given their talent, France often leave viewers wanting more. They seldom dominate games from start to finish, nor do they exert a level of control one might expect given their talent. But perhaps that is actually part of the plan.

Indeed, it is increasingly hard to shake the feeling that the aforementioned features of France’s games do not exist by accident but by design. France do not press high because they want to invite the opposition forward, in turn opening up space for the likes of Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele in transition. Perhaps Deschamps prefers matches where there are chances at both ends, backing his superior attacking talent to ultimately outgun the other team, rather than one where there are few overall opportunities.

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Deschamps has certainly had a good tournament so far. His decision to deploy Antoine Griezmann in a deeper role has paid off handsomely; the Atletico Madrid man has been one of the players of the tournament so far.

Mbappe has shone in his favoured left-sided berth, in part because Adrien Rabiot provides defensive cover on that side of the pitch, allowing the Paris Saint-Germain star to focus on attacking. And Giroud continues to deliver: he became France’s all-time leading goalscorer after finding the net against Poland.

“It was not easy because Poland were well organised and tried to counter us,” Deschamps told TF1, a French broadcaster, after Sunday’s game.

“Then there is Kylian with his ability to resolve all sorts of problems, and that’s just as well for us.

“This team has been united from the beginning and obviously a result like this one confirms that. The joy is shared among everyone.”

Unlike every other squad that remains in Qatar, France have numerous players – and a manager – who knows what it takes to win the World Cup. That could be a key factor for the remainder of the tournament.

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