From our Special Envoy in Doha,
Paul, is that you? When we learned of Pogba’s package for the World Cup, our chief quarterback capable of breaking more lines in one pass than in Tetris, we wondered who was going to be able to take over. Since the match against Australia on Tuesday, we have our answer. And it does not come from midfield but from central defense, in the person of Dayot Upamecano. Propelled to the position of left axial defender in place of another injured, Presnel Kimpembe, the Bayern Munich player literally burst the screen against the Socceroos, he who had until then delivered no satisfactory copy on the six selections he had since September 5, 2020 and a League of Nations match in Sweden.
From his sofa, Olivier Bijotat, his trainer when he arrived at 15 in Valenciennes from Evreux, could only appreciate the brutal awakening of the man. “During his first capes, Dayot never managed to stabilize in terms of play, he was able to make unusual technical errors at home, he concedes first. Maybe there was something called jersey weight. When you arrive on the international scene, you are in the heavens, you are getting closer to the sun and he may have fished out in terms of managing emotions and losing his usual composure and phlegm. In fact he is running behind his level of play at Bayern. Tuesday he finally found him and he must be able to confirm on Saturday, and for him and for the defensive base of the team ”.
“Not the same software as other defenders”
For the defensive base, we will wait to see an opponent much more dangerous than was Australia. No, what particularly amazed us on Tuesday was the quality of his kicking game. We may not be ayatollahs of statistics 20 minutesthere are some that still tell something, judge for yourself:
- 131 balloons hit
- 94.9% successful passes (114)
- 87 passes forward
- 8 out of 10 successful through passes
When we compare with Raphaël Varane, the French defense manager supposed to make his big comeback against Denmark, it’s day and night. If the Mancunian is a talented central defender, he still sometimes lacks ambition in his reminders. Quite the opposite of Upamecano. And it does not date from yesterday according to the former Valenciennes now coach of the U15s of RC Lens. “Since a very young age, Dayot has been driven by forward play. He is in love with an attacking momentum that allowed him, when he was in the youth teams at Valenciennes, either to launch his teammates with passes that cross one or two opposing lines, or outright to take the ball and project himself to bring in excess. It corresponds to his nature as a game, it’s in his DNA. Dayot doesn’t have the same software as most centre-backs. »
“It’s my game to try to break the lines, to play fast forward, to create an imbalance, he confirmed in conf the day after the victory against Australia. Afterwards it is sure that it is a risk but I try to take as little as possible. If you don’t take risks, you don’t lose the ball, OK. But are you useful to the collective? No. I’ve always played like this and I’m not going to stop now. »
With such technical quality in this position, it would also be highly criminal to restrain him. Olivier Bijotat immediately understood this. “We must not restrain him, on the contrary, we must encourage him. We even went to the opposite extreme. As he was extremely demanding of work, on Friday afternoon I put him to work with a group of attackers and he had a blast. Playing football is for him. »
An exceptional base and a complete technical palette
Tuesday, there were no less than six clean and daring raises (17th, 30th, 45th, 45 + 6th, 49th, 62nd), five of which led to secondhand or semi-secondhand. We have chosen to dissect three of them for you with the help of his former trainer.
1. The pass to Mbappé (17th): After having brought the ball back about twenty meters, Upamecano could choose the easy solution by giving Théo Hernandez along the touchline, but the latter would have been immediately blocked by his vis-à-vis. Instead, the Munich player opts for the Mbappé option, a powerful pass on the ground that the Parisian, due to his technical ease, will deflect in one touch for Hernandez. On the action, no less than three Australians died in the film.
>> Olivier Bijotat: “This pass may seem trivial for the quidam, but it’s quite the opposite. He knows it’s Mbappé, he knows his technical quality, so he tries it. It is precise, powerful just enough not to put Mbappé in difficulty. When we see this kind of pass, this nerve, we can almost say that we have one more offensive player in the team.
2. The cake for Griezmann (45th): It is the cross section that has certainly marked the most spirits. We are approaching the break, after a glance on his right towards Griezmann, Dembélé dezones and returns full axis to attract a defender and allow the Colchonero to launch his call. From the central circle, Upamecano sees it and delivers a masterful whipped pass from the right kick,
>> Olivier Bijotat: “It’s dosed to perfection, with just enough for the ball to bounce in front of Griezmann, who takes it perfectly and finds Mbappé full axis. Dayot loves this kind of whipped ball, but always with the right foot, eh, be careful! The left is not that yet. »
3. The candy slammed for Théo Hernandez (62nd): Upamecano has the ball in the Australian half. Facing him, five Australians and Griezmann, back to goal, who picks up to offer him a support solution. But what we don’t see, at least not on TV because he’s offscreen, is Théo Hernandez’s call, forgotten by the opposing defense because, we think, he’s not reachable through the pass. Do you think!
>> Olivier Bijotat: “He has an exceptional quality of passing from the inside of the right foot. Thereupon he eliminates, come on, three, four or even five opponents. These slammed passes, chack, he loves to do them. He delights in attempting gestures like that. And I can tell you that it is not easy to achieve. One, you have to see it, and two, you have to do it, you have to make a decision very quickly and find the perfect dosage. It’s big. »
A big shot to play against Denmark
End of the sequence, pensive silence. Olivier Bijotat reflects and debriefs: “Dayot is a go-getter, both in life and on the pitch. He is someone who dares a lot. Of course, attempting this kind of gesture involves risks, it can prove to be detrimental from time to time, but when you balance the balance between successful passes which are killers for the opponent, and missed passes, it does not there is no photo, the tray undeniably leans on the right side. Tuesday’s figures do not say anything else: 10 attempted through passes, 8 successful, 80%, thank you, good evening.
It remains to be seen whether he can repeat this kind of performance against a much tougher opponent, without forgetting to neglect the work on defensive tasks. It does not seem to worry the former VAFC. “He is good in duels, good in depth management and he has an extremely high athletic volume, not to say extraordinary, concludes Bijotat. When you put it all together, it gives you an idea of where it can go. If Saturday goes well, there is undoubtedly a lot to do for Dayot in the national team. “We will have a thought for Kimpembe who, reluctantly leaving the towel ten days ago in Clairefontaine, may have lost much more than a World Cup.