Olympique Lyonnais and Paris-Saint Germain faced each other in the French Cup final during a heavy rainy evening at Stade Abbé-Deschamps in Auxerre and with the attendance of supporters despite the harsh weather conditions. It was a spectacular match between two of the best teams in France and Europe that ended with Olympique Lyonnais’ win of their ninth French cup after resorting to penalty shootouts.
Other than the existing rivalry between the two teams and the big value of the French cup, this match has also served the two teams in their preparation for the upcoming Women’s UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in which Lyon will face Bayern Munich while Paris-Saint Germain will aim at beating Arsenal.
In this tactical analysis, I will provide a match analysis covering both teams’ tactics and players’ performances while considering the in-game events that shaped this final and coaches’ tactical decisions.
For this encounter, Lyon’s coaching staff preferred to stick to their typical formation and lineup, except some changes in their defensive line. They lined-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Sarah Bouhaddi as a goalkeeper, four defenders including Kadeisha Buchanan and the captain Wendie Renard as centre-backs and Selma Bacha as a left-back with the English Lucy Bronze as a right-back.
At midfield, Jean-Luc Vasseur plays with two deep-lying midfielders, Amandine Henry and Saki Kumagai who are fronted by the two excellent wingers Amel Majri and Delphine Cascarino. On the same line plays Dzsenifer Marozsán as an attacking midfielder behind Nikita Parris, leaving plenty of options on the bench, mainly Eugénie Le Sommer.
Paris-Saint Germain played according to their typical 4-4-2 formation as well but with various changes in the lineup. Olivier Echouafni, the team’s manager, preferred to start with Christiane Endler as a goalkeeper, Irene Paredes and Paulina Dudek as centre-backs while replacing Ève Périsset who has recently joined Bordeaux with Ashley Lawrence at the right-back position, while Perle Morroni played as a left-back.
The midfield was composed of two central midfielders Formiga and Grace Geyoro and the same line included the two wingers Kadidiatou Diani and Sandy Baltimore.
This enabled PSG to defend with two lines across the field, behind the two forwards Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Jordyn Huitema who, on their turn, were the ones who start the process of defence and pressure.
First-half tactics and opportunities
The game started with Lyon attempting to put pressure on Paris-Saint Germain early on in the game and attack continuously during the first minutes. However, due to an unexpected electricity problem in the stadium, the game was suspended and Lyon’s attempts of controlling the match were not effective since the game was as if to be restarted from the beginning.
Following this unplanned break, Paris-Saint Germain tried to be more aggressive and pressed with a high defensive block and two other lines, one formed of midfielders and wingers and the other composed of Jordyn Huitema and Marie-Antoinette Katoto who drops back to play as a second striker or a trequartista when in possession.
And this backward position of Katoto helped Paris-Saint Germain be more balanced and gave them some extra possession options in midfield as it also helped create some opportunities which were not exploited perfectly.
You can see the three defensive lines of PSG and the positions of their forwards in and out of possession in the images below.
Lyon, however, relied heavily on the wings and exploited the individual skills of Amel Majri who was devastating in one-on-one duels and caused a lot of trouble to PSG’s defence. Also, on the right flank, Lucy Bronze was relied on to advance and help in creating numerical superiority in PSG’s half and even penalty area at times. Bronze often makes fast accelerations and exchanges the ball with Cascarino to create spaces behind the defensive line of their opponent like it is shown in this example.
Yet, both teams were unable to score in this first-half despite the chances that were created from both sides. The most dangerous one was for Lyon when they nearly punished Paris-Saint Germain for their high defensive block by a through pass from Marozsán to Parris. Parris found herself in front of the goal, dribbled past the goalkeeper and tried to score but Paredes came in the way and saved PSG from an eventual goal. You can see in the picture below how this pass tore apart the defence after Marozsán noticed that Parris was not really marked.
Second-half tactics and opportunities
At the start of the second half, neither team made substitutions and possession was in favour of PSG, however, it was not a positive possession. In other words, they did not benefit a lot from their ball possession mainly due to Lyon’s defenders’ tight marking in duels and especially during free-kicks.
As you can see in this picture, they did not leave spaces or chances for the opposition players to take a ball in the penalty area.
In the 56th minute, Formiga left her place to Sara Däbritz in PSG’s midfield who played her second match after her injury. Olympique Lyonnais, once again after noticing the gaps in the opposition defence, started an action by Majri who spotted Parris’ run towards the penalty area while trying to escape marking and provided her with an accurate long-ball but Parris failed to convert it to a goal mainly due to Dudek’s disturbance.
Following this chance, Vasseur chose to have a more attacking approach to the game and exploit the defensive weaknesses of their opponent by subbing in Le Sommer to play as a left-winger in the place of Majri who had to play as a left-back to replace Bacha, who was subbed off.
Yet, when in possession, Majri advances to play in her natural position in the left-wing while Le Sommer joined Parris in the penalty area to have more options out there. And this picture shows exactly the process of Majri’s advancement and asking for the ball while Le Sommer joins Parris in the centre.
During the last 25 minutes, both teams tried to preserve the same result and not play with fire especially when knowing that the players started to become tired even though both managers made some changes, especially in defence to keep some fresh legs on the field. Real opportunities were scarce and only shots from distance and some non-dangerous headers were seen, while both teams made substitutions on purpose for the penalty shootouts.
Lyon kicked-off the penalty shootouts with a goal from Majri, then Nadia Nadim equalised for PSG. Afterwards, Marozsán scored a beautiful goal, and Däbritz, Renard, Signe Bruun all scored making the result 3-3.
The surprise happened when Le Sommer missed her penalty and the credit goes to Endler, PSG’s goalkeeper who saved it. Yet, she did not remain happy for too long since she herself went to shoot her team’s fourth penalty and missed it. She hit the crossbar and kept the result 3-3 before Bronze mades it 4-3. Olympique Lyonnais’ goalkeeper saved Léa Khelifi’s penalty turning out key for Lyon’s ninth French cup trophy.
Even though the two teams are still in their preparation phase after a long break, they were able to play a very competitive match that not only enabled the best to lift the trophy but also served as a real preparation match for the tougher coming Champions League fixtures.
The game was very balanced despite some goal-scoring opportunities from both sides, and what remains certain is that both teams are amongst the best in France and Europe. And they should build on their performances during this game to do even better in the next crucial games.