France became the first team to book a place in the round of 16 at the World Cup 2022. The defending World Champions scored late against Denmark to make it two wins in a row and cruise into the next round. Kylian Mbappe has garnered all headlines for scoring goals, but the Bayern Munich defender has been equally brilliant at the other end of the pitch for France.
The French defender has been composed on the ball, racking up a passing accuracy of 95%. Moreover, his passes have often helped France to break lines and put pressure on the opposition by initiating quick counter-attacks.
In terms of his work off the ball, Dayot Upamecano has excelled by winning the majority of duels against forwards. The Bayern defender has won almost every ground duel that he has participated in across two games. Upamecano has been often criticised for making rash decisions, but he didn’t put a foot wrong against Australia and Denmark.
It is not surprising to see Upamecano start the World Cup strongly since he has been in fine form for Bayern in the past six weeks. The French defender endured a mixed start to the campaign, but he has managed to achieve a good level of consistency in his performances as the season has progressed. (Stats courtesy: FotMob)
Apart from his technical ability on and off the ball, Upamecano has been a vocal leader for France on the pitch. He has marshaled the defense to near perfection in both games. The French defender was also seen voraciously encouraging his teammates after they conceded the early goal against Australia. It was unfortunate for him that there is no clean sheet to show for his solid start to the World Cup. The emergence of Dayot Upamecano as a leader in defense for France bodes well for Die Roten.
It does look like Upamecano has managed to cement his place in the French starting XI. Raphael Varane will likely partner him in central defense, but France does have a chance of resting Upamecano against Tunisia since qualification for the next round is sealed.
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Meanwhile, other Bayern players in the French squad are fighting to find a place in the starting XI. Benjamin Pavard was an unused substitute against Denmark as Didier Deschamps preferred Jules Kounde in the right-back position. Kingsley Coman made a positive impression on the pitch during his cameo against Denmark, but Ousmane Dembele is currently ahead of him in the pecking order for the spot on the right flank.