NADA ES LO QUE PARECE

46

«Los delanteros ganan partidos. Los defensas, campeonatos»

John Gregory

Aparentemente pareció una jugada sin demasiada importancia. Después de que el segundo gol de Thuram hubiera templado los nervios de toda Francia, el equipo de Aimé Jacquet se disponía a botar un córner con la intención de certificar el pase a la final de su Mundial. Sin embargo, tras un forcejeo en el área de Ladić, el central Bilić cayó al suelo y el colegiado español García-Aranda corrió en dirección a Laurent Blanc para mostrarle la tarjeta roja directa. De este modo, el espigado defensor que antes de cada partido besaba la calva de Barthez como un gesto de superstición, no podría estar en el Stade de France para jugar el encuentro más importante en la historia de Francia. Un dolor de cabeza mayúsculo para el viejo Jacquet, que a lo largo del campeonato había entendido que si habían llegado tan lejos había sido, en gran parte, por culpa de su defensa, el factor diferencial de la mayoría de los equipos que acaban conquistando el mundo.

En la Francia de Deschamps nada es lo que parece. Puede que en lo que plasticidad se refiere su fútbol esté muy lejos del Fútbol Total de la Holanda de los años 70, pero la realidad señala que los conceptos son muy similares. En este equipo, los atacantes no sólo se encargan de buscar el gol, pues es muy frecuente ver a Giroud despejar de cabeza en su propia área un córner del rival. Del mismo modo, los defensas no se conforman con proteger la portería que custodia Lloris. Incluso, si se buscan similitudes entre el equipo campeón de 1998 y éste que puede serlo el próximo domingo, las más obvias se encontrarán en el entramado defensivo, que curiosamente ha asumido responsabilidades atacantes en los momentos decisivos del torneo. Si hace veinte años el propio Blanc clasificaba a Francia para los cuartos de final después de marcarle a Chilavert el primer gol de oro de la historia de las Copas del Mundo y Thuram hacía los dos únicos tantos que en su carrera logró con la camiseta azul en la histórica remontada de semifinales ante Croacia en Saint-Denis, en este Mundial los zagueros franceses también han sabido dar un paso al frente en instantes de máxima exigencia. Así las cosas, Pavard empató el partido de octavos ante Argentina con uno de los goles más bellos del torneo, Varane abrió la lata en el difícil partido de cuartos contra Uruguay y el imperial cabezazo de Umtiti decidió toda una semifinal contra Bélgica. La gran diferencia entre una generación y otra es la edad: la actual defensa de les bleus apenas supera los 23 años de media.

Para entender los motivos por los que Francia únicamente ha dejado su portería a cero en cuatro de los seis partidos que ha disputado hasta ahora es necesario desgranar el entramado defensivo de Deschamps. De hecho, incluso el hecho de haber encajado cuatro goles tiene algo de engañoso. Uno se lo hizo desde el punto de penalti el australiano Jedinak, mientras que los otros tres llegaron en el partido frente a Argentina con un soberbio disparo lejano de Di María, un rebote de Mercado y un cabezazo de Agüero con el tiempo cumplido. En cambio, ni Perú, ni Dinamarca, ni Uruguay ni Bélgica fueron capaces de que el balón besara las redes galas. Para ello cuentan con un meta como Lloris, seguro en los balones aéreos, con sentido de la colocación y ágil de piernas y de reflejos, como demostró en la asombrosa mano que metió para sacar el cabezazo de Cáceres. En cuanto a los centrales, tanto Varane como Umtiti están cuajando un torneo sensacional, no sólo por su decisiva influencia en ataque, sino por la seguridad que han transmitido atrás, veloces a la hora de correr hacia su portería, expeditivos en los cortes e imperiales en el juego aéreo. Y, por si fuera poco, se trata de dos prodigios técnicos a los que Deschamps encomendó la responsabilidad de sacar el balón jugado, ya fuera con apoyos y pases cortos o con desplazamientos diagonales buscando a Mbappé o Giroud. La gran sorpresa seguramente la hayan protagonizado los laterales, porque ni Pavard ni Lucas acumulaban una decena de partidos internacionales antes del inicio de la Copa del Mundo. Ellos son la apuesta más arriesgada de Deschamps, que para la banda derecha apostó por el lateral del Stuttgart en lugar del potente Sidibé, y que se ha destapado como un futbolista inteligente, elegante a la hora de jugar el balón, versátil para actuar también en el centro de la defensa y todo un especialista defensivo. Igual de sorprendente que el de Pavard está siendo el campeonato de Lucas Hernández, quien igualmente ha tenido que abandonar el centro de la zaga –del mismo modo que en el Atlético– para desplazar a un Mendy que llegaba muy justo tras haber pasado lesionado la mayor parte de su primer año en el Manchester City. Al contrario que Pavard, Lucas se ha destapado como un relámpago por la banda izquierda, un lateral tan capaz de llegar a la línea de fondo como de asfixiar a los extremos rivales gracias a su intensidad y su nervio. Paradojas del fútbol, aunque es el más ofensivo de los cuatro zagueros galos es el único que aún no ha visto puerta.

La tela de araña de Deschamps se completa con N’Golo Kanté, un sistema defensivo en sí mismo, un especialista en la presión, las ayudas y la intuición para recuperar balones; el poderío aéreo y el imponente físico del mejor Pogba que se recuerda; el abnegado trabajo de Matuidi o Tolisso; y la implicación de un Griezmann que no duda en esprintar hasta su propio campo para favorecer un dos contra uno, recuperar el balón y armar la contra. Sus opciones pasan por que Croacia, su rival en la final, no sea capaz de explotar sus (pocos) puntos débiles a través de las conducciones de Modrić, la inteligencia espacial de Rakitić, la insistencia de Mandžukić y la verticalidad de Rebić y Perišić por la bandas. Si los cuatro de atrás consiguen salir vivos de estos emparejamientos será muy difícil que Francia no revalide el título que ya conquistó en 1998. De entrada, esta vez Deschamps, capitán en el inolvidable 1998, sí contará con todos sus titulares.

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Periodista amante del fútbol vintage y devoto del único emperador romano: Totti. 'Yo creía en Dios porque pensaba que Dios era del Madrid'.

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