Hazard And Courtois Label France ‘Anti-Football’ And Deride Set Piece Goal

Why have set pieces become the whipping boy of the World Cup?

Following Belgium’s 1-0 defeat to France in the semifinals of the World Cup, defeated Red Devils stars Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois immediately began throwing shade at Les Bleus

“I prefer to lose with Belgium than win with France,” said the excellent Hazard. “We play most beautifully. That’s more my style. The little black spot is of course that goal from a set piece. But we know Deschamps’ France.”

Courtois’ fire take was in a similar vein.

“France heads a corner and does nothing more than defend,” said the Chelsea keeper. “I would have preferred to have lost in the quarterfinals to Brazil, at least that was a team that wanted to play football. (France is) just an anti-football team.”

Set pieces, huh? Nothing at this World Cup has been a better rod to beat somebody with. 

First off, I have a massive problem with “set pieces, set pieces, set pieces,” not only because I find it to be an annoying catchphrase, I also think it’s incredibly dishonest. It’s an oversimplification — a desperate attempt to understand a match’s outcome based off one single instance. 

Belgium lost to France on a set piece in the 51st minute. The end. That’s such bullshit. 

In the minutes proceeding it, Belgium had possession in France’s half, probing for an opening. What happened here was the match in a nutshell: Belgium was desperate to work it toward the left to get Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne all involved, but France denied them that. 

World Cup set pieces

There's no getting the ball to Hazard there.

With Thomas Meunier suspended and Nacer Chadli shuttled into an unnatural position on that right flank, France allowed Belgium to give it to Chadli, essentially urging the Red Devils to try to hurt them with the West Brom winger. 

Just look at the passing network chart for the opening 60 minutes of the match — it’s obscene what France allowed on that right-hand side.

World Cup set pieces

"Go ahead. Give it to Chadli," said France. Photo: @11tegen11 | Twitter

But here’s why they did it and why it was so effective.

And so immediately after Belgium’s inability to generate anything of note on that attack, France went and attacked that same weak link.

Here’s Lucas Hernandez strolling up France’s left flank moments later — just look at the positioning of Chadli here!

World Cup set pieces

Chadli wyd?! What is he defending?!

Hernandez then played it through to Blaise Matuidi, who was excellent throughout (again, these moments are just microcosms of the larger game). Matuidi then played it in to Olivier Giroud, who did really well to turn Vincent Kompany and fire a shot at goal. Ultimately, Kompany made a great recovery and blocked the shot out for a corner. 

World Cup Set Pieces

Giroud turns Kompany, forcing the defender to block his shot for a corner.

This is where you have the set piece goal and the entire FOX crew screaming, “set pieces, set pieces, set pieces!” It’s a goddamn joke when it comes to actual commentary on a game. This wasn't just a set piece, it was the outcome of a myriad of decisions that decided the game. 

This is a rant, and I’m sorry about that, but I’m tired of pretending like set pieces are something wholly outside of the run of play.

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