Didier Deschamps has a big decision to make ahead Thursday’s mouth-watering Euro 2016 semi-final against Germany: stick with the winning formula which saw them conquer Ireland and Iceland, or recall one of his most influential players.
For many supporters N’Golo Kante would be one of the first names on the team sheet, following an outstanding 12 months which has seen him earn a Premier League winners medal and establish a place in the national side.
Change in formation has helped get the best out of Griezmann
It must be noted that the real difference has come due to a change of shape, from the 4-3-3 which France played at the start of the tournament to a more creative 4-2-3-1, which has brought the best out of Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud up top.
Griezmann, the current top scorer at the competition, has flourished in a more central role behind Giroud, while giving the Arsenal striker a comrade to create space for and bring the Atletico Madrid man into play.
Of course Kante, who was suspended against Iceland, could return in one of the two central midfield spots and he may be the best option to deal with the threat of Germany’s Mesut Ozil, who could cause havoc in front France’s flaky back four.
That would mean dropping either Paul Pogba or Blaise Matuidi, who were both impressive in the last round, though it would be worthwhile if Giroud and especially Griezmann are at their most prolific.
With Dimitri Payet on the left, the 4-2-3-1 formation would also free up a position on the right which Moussa Sissoko filled admirably against Iceland. The other options include Manchester United’s Anthony Martial or Kingsley Coman, though it could be argued that the latter isn’t built to deal with a physically strong German side.
Germany expected to revert to a back four
Joachim Loew will be expected to revert back to the traditional 4-2-3-1 formation which Germany deployed in the first four games at the Championships. A more unorthodox 3-5-2 was used to combat the threat Italy in the last eight, though it is unlikely the German boss will repeat that approach.
Against the Italian’s, Loew played three centre backs with Jerome Boateng, Benedikt Howedes and Mats Hummels making up a three-man defence. With Hummels suspended Germany should revert to a back four, with full backs Jonas Hector and Joshua Kimmich allowed to get forward at will.
The 4-2-3-1 should also see Julian Draxler return on the wing, though the German’s may lack a focal point upfront after Mario Gomez was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.
Like in their previous games Germany are likely to try and dominate the midfield and start attacks through the wide range of passing from Boateng and Toni Kroos. In Gomez’s absence Loew may choose to bring back Mario Gotze to play as a false nine.