Areola takes France to the top of the World
By Marco Fumagalli
Congratulations to France the FIFA U20 World Champions. The victory came after penalty kicks which followed a very tactical and defensive 0-0 tie against Uruguay that lasted the entire 120 minutes.
An old football legend and wise man once told me that in football there are only two key positions: the men scoring goals and the men saving goals.
France didn’t have a killer striker but had by far the best goalkeeper in the competition and that’s what made them champions at the end; Alphonse Areola last night had his best match of the tournament, denying Uruguay what would have been a deserved victory prior to penalty kicks.
Over 20000 spectators attended the Ali Sami Yen Arena for this historical event in Turkey. The 3rd place was played earlier on the same pitch between Ghana and Iraq.
Ghana easily defeated Iraq who arrived at this point of the tournament with no gas and could not express their fast and skilled football against the physical African team. Neither could Iraqi star, Ali Adnan make another miracle despite his coach using him as center defender, left back, left midfielder and left wing in the 90 minutes of the match. Ghana’s goals by Attamah, Assifuah and Acheampong fixed the result to 3-0 for Ghana.
Back to the final.
4-2-3-1 for French as coach Mankowski realized that was the most efficient way to place his talented youth; Areola in the goal, Zouma and Sarr in the center of the defense, Digne left back, Foulquier right back, Kondogbia and Pogba in front of the defense, Sanogo as center forward with Veretout behind him, Bahebeck on the left wing and Thauvin on the right one. The game plan is simple; wait for the opponents in France’s half, recuperate the ball, play a long ball to Sanogo and wait for the support on the wings from Thauvin, Bahebeck or the overlapping from the full backs Digne and Foulquier.
4-4-2 for Uruguay and coach Verzeri: De Amores in the goal, Silva and Velazquez in the center of the defense, Rodriguez left back, Gimenez right back, Cristoforo and Acevedo as center midfielders, Pais right midfielder, Laxalt left midfielder, Avenatti and Lopez up front. Tactically Uruguay is perfect: the two lines of 4 move perfectly synchronized and cover all the spaces not leaving France chances to be dangerous from regular plays. Laxalt was tasked with covering Foulquier and limit his offensive runs, Avenatti was a target point for the long balls and Nico Lopez was tasked with diving into the space behind France’s defense.
While France began the game stronger than Uruguay, the ball control slowly shifted to the South Americans during the first half and the entire second half plus two extra times, with Uruguay trying to build plays around France defensive wall and the French attempting counter attacks.
Three clear chances for Uruguay in the first half: on minute 3 Lopez’s left foot shot found Areola already warm and attentive; on minute 19 a bad back pass allowed Lopez to be 1vs1 against Areola who made the first miracle save of the match; on minute 41 Lopez again was able to dribble 3 French players but his shot ended above the bar.
In order to see dangerous opportunities for France we had to wait minute 43 when on two consecutive corner kicks, Uruguayan goalkeeper De Amores, showed great reflexes on near shots.
In the second half the best chances were again for Uruguay: a shot by Lopez which didn’t find the target on minute 58, a counter attack on minute 65 where Lopez instead of passing to the open Avenatti shot wide again, a shot from outside the box by Rodriguez on minute 66 which found Areola very attentive, another shot this time by Acevedo which ended high after a cross by Avenatti from the left side on minute 72, a shot from far away by Lopez on minute 78 found again Areola well placed.
When both teams seemed ready for extra time, the most exciting chances from both sides actually happened: on minute 79 Areola came out to avoid Avenatti the winning tap in, De Amores showed his flying skills after a shot by Veretout on minute 84 and his fast reaction skills again on a corner kick in minute 85 while the last chance was a cross for Uruguay that ended right above the France goal bar.
The substitutions didn’t change anything tactically and didn’t change the plot of the match. During the two extra times there were 3 chances for Uruguay.
Penalty kicks are usually a lottery, unless you have a goalkeeper such as Areola capable of saving the first two penalty kicks of Uruguay and taking the trophy to multiracial France for the first time in history.
See you in New Zealand in 2015!