On Saturday 8 June Turkey hosted the current world champions France in Konya. It turned out to become a historic win for the home team, beating Les Bleus for the first time ever. With a sensational 2-0 win, Turkey now leads Group H of the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers with nine points from three games. France, on the other hand, are now in second position, trailing by three points. In this tactical analysis, we will show the reasons for this surprising result.
Didier Deschamps trusted his World Cup-winning tactics. Therefore, there were no surprises. Since N’Golo Kanté cancelled his participation in the squad due to a minor injury, Moussa Sissoko played in the central midfield alongside Paul Pogba. Similar to the World Cup, Blaise Matuidi was used as a hybrid of left winger and left central midfielder, creating an asymmetry on the wings.
Turkey head coach Şenol Güneş heavily prepared for this game and used a 4-2-3-1. However, as we will show later, the system was fluid and would change accordingly to the situational need. Even though some important players like Cenk Tosun, Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Okay Yokuşlu missed the game because of injuries, Güneş was able to form a competitive team.
Defensive stability is the key for Turkey
When the current world champions have only one shot throughout the game – and not even one shot on the target – Turkey clearly did something right. Defensively, Güneş’ team were well-prepared.
Here, we see the special approach by the Turkish team. When France were attacking, Turkey’s left winger Kenan Karaman would fall back to complete the back line to a back five. While Benjamin Pavard was thus open every time, Turkey were able to control Kylian Mbappe. Left back Hasan Ali Kaldırım and Karaman defended aggressively against the young super talent and were able to completely take him out of the game. Pavard, however, had all the time in the world, but Turkey risked that willingly, knowing that his offensive output isn’t all that great.
Furthermore, Turkey were able to close the centre brilliantly and prevent passes between the lines to Antoine Griezmann. With Lucas Digne and Blaise Matuidi on the left wing not being dangerous either, Turkey were able to leave that particular side open.
Here, we see a further advantage of Karaman falling back defensively. Once again, Pavard is open, while Karaman keeps an eye on Mbappe. Thus, Kaldırım is able to move out and pursue Griezmann aggressively, as he doesn’t have to worry about Mbappe. Even though the central midfielders of Turkey are working well, Pogba is able to get the ball between the lines thanks to his great technical skills. But, Kaldırım moves out as explained and prevents Griezmann from turning towards goal.
Turkey also defend the centre brilliantly
Pogba was nearly invisible during this game: one of the main reasons for this was the work of Turkey’s midfield.
When Matuidi had the ball in the left half space, Cengiz Ünder would always close the passing lane out to the wing to Digne. While many coaches today try to force the opponent to the wing, Turkey chose a different approach, since they were confident to be able to defend aggressively in the centre.
Here, we see such a pressing trap in the centre. Turkey provoke the pass into that area and immediately attack with four players. Even though the space between those players is wide open, there is no way that France can get the ball to Mbappe. Alongside this tactical reason, we could also observe that France lacked the necessary concentration levels and couldn’t execute fast passes to outplay this press. However, the aggressiveness of Turkey was so high that it is doubtful whether France could have done better or not.
An exemplary example for this is the situation above, where France were able to get the ball to Mbappe in the right half space. Irfan Can Kahveci is, however, able to move out immediately and win the duel against Mbappe to start a counterattack.
Occasional high press by Turkey leads to huge problems for France
From time to time, Turkey even had the courage to press high. As stated earlier, the Équipe Tricolore lacked the necessary level of concentration. Therefore, untypical mistakes occurred.
Here, we see the man-to-man approach that Turkey used. The emphasis was clearly on attacking aggressively with high energy. Thus, there was no need to overcomplicate things. Here, Karaman is able to lead Raphaël Varane into a mistake and Burak Yılmaz ends up having a great chance.
In fact, Turkey’s second goal was a result of that great press.
Once again, we see the man-to-man approach. Yılmaz puts great pressure on the ball and is able to win it. France aren’t positioned well and aren’t able to overcome the press. Ultimately, after winning the ball such high up the pitch, Turkey are able to use the disorganized defensive structure of their opponent to find Cengiz Ünder in the box. Ünder finishes clinically with his weaker right foot.
France try to play more offensively in the second half
Deschamps knew that he had to react, so he adapted coming into the second half. Kingsley Coman went in for Matuidi, while Digne was also replaced by the more offensive Ferland Mendy. Thus, Deschamps clearly wanted to produce more power through the left wing.
In fact, we could observe that Sissoko fell back into the right half space so that France could build-up with three players. Pavard then pushed even higher than in the first half, with Mbappe focussing more on the centre. Surprisingly, Griezmann stayed high. Surely his playmaking abilities may have helped if he fell back instead of Mbappe. Also, a possible substitution could have been Léo Dubois, the right back from Olympique Lyon, who could have replaced Pavard in order to increase the pressure along the right wing.
On the left wing, it was obvious that these players didn’t have the automatisms. Mendy and Coman couldn’t coordinate well enough. Thus, we have the following situation.
Samuel Umtiti has the ball in the left half space building the game up. As the second half just started, Turkey weren’t able to instantly adapt. Umtiti uses this to trick Ünder. Notice his right arm pointing vertically into the gap between Ünder and Kahveci. Ünder falls for it and makes the move into the centre to close the passing lane.
Now the passing lane to the left wing is open. While this was no problem in the first half with Digne and Matuidi, there is a lot of attacking potential in this situation thanks to Mendy and Coman. Mendy receives the ball from Umtiti and starts the attack.
Ünder moves out to the wing rapidly to pressure Mendy. In the meantime, Griezmann provides a short passing option in the half-space, from where he would be able to initiate a dangerous attack. Coman on the other hand starts a deep run behind the defensive line. However, Mendy doesn’t realise this and plays a short pass to Coman, which is intercepted by Zeki Çelik.
In the final third, these communication errors occurred as well. Here, Coman dribbles with the ball into the centre. Mendy is overlapping him and should receive the ball on the wing. In similar situations at Bayern, Coman would play the ball to David Alaba, but here he tries to force his way through. Obviously, Dorukhan Toköz and Yusuf Yazıcı are able to put him under pressure and win the ball.
Turkey controlled the game with and without possession
We have shown the problems France had during possession and the great defensive measures Turkey took. The underdogs were very well able to control the game even without possession. But what about their own possession game and the defence by France?
Obviously, Turkey were eager to attack fast in transition and rely on counterattacking situation with their fast striker Yılmaz and wingers Karaman and Ünder. However, when they had possession for a longer time, they were able to hold the ball in their own rows rather easily. This helped to find some breathing space from time to time, since it would have been difficult to constantly defend for 90 minutes.
In those situations, it was clear that France would once again use their asymmetric 4-4-2 defence from the Corld cup. However, they just played their own thing without adapting to the opponent at all. Thus, they were too passive and couldn’t pressure the Turkish side. With Kaldırım staying deep, Turkey could create a back three occasionally. The central midfielders often enough had too much space, especially between the lines like here in this image, as the three offensive players pin the back line.
Even though the positioning of Turkey wasn’t perfect at all and their technical ability are somehow limited, it was enough to control a weak French side.
Deschamps wasn’t happy at all with his side at the post-match press conference, criticizing his team’s attitude and body language. However, his team wasn’t prepared tactically either. They played their usual tactic without any opponent-specific action, while Turkey were able to install a tactical system that was totally built to refute the opponent’s strengths and destroy their game. Therefore, the victory for Turkey is well deserved, like Deschamps also mentioned. World champions France will surely improve in the upcoming games and shouldn’t have any problems qualifying for the Euro 2020 tournament.
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