Having become the undisputed holder of the left wing of the French team following his brother Lucas’ injury against Australia, Theo Hernandez has managed to be decisive in this 2022 World Cup. Nevertheless, the native of Marseille still does not inspire much confidence defensively, especially not defensively . when the Blues are awarded a corner in their final 25 metres.
To say that Theo Hernandez had an atypical start to the World Cup is an understatement. Initially limited to an understudy role, the 25-year-old left-back took advantage of his brother Lucas’ injury after thirteen minutes against Australia (4-1) to experience his first minutes played at the World Cup and become France’s holder. team. That day, a quarter of an hour after coming on, he also delivered a decisive pass to Adrien Rabiot, who launched the Mondial des Bleus in earnest. Quick decisive and in the absence of reliable competition in his position, the San Siro darling has established himself as an unbreakable element in Didier Deschamps’ eleven.
A (too) overflowing energy
During four seasons in Milan, Theo Hernandez has built a reputation as a striker and has multiplied the breakthroughs in his left lane. An offensive contribution which, however, hides his considerable defensive prowess, which becomes apparent when his side find themselves in a corner in the final 25 metres. And this lack of defensive rigor made the tricolor supporters sweat during the quarter-final against England (2-1). At 84e minute, the youngest of the Hernandez siblings conceded a silly penalty by shoving Mason Mount in the back. An intervention bordering on the ridiculous, which especially annoyed Deschamps. Fortunately, Harry Kane launched a missile into Doha’s skies. This lack of concentration and control is typical of Theo Hernandez. Four days later, against Morocco (2-0), the Rossonero was the originator of a controversial tackle on Sofiane Boufal, which the referee of the meeting, César Ramos Palazuelos, however, did not sanction with a penalty.
When France (or AC Milan) master his subject and do not find himself in a corner in his 25 meters, Theo Hernandez does not suffer and shows serenity. Example against Denmark: 100% successful tackles, 70% won duels and a superb assist for Kylian Mbappé. A brutal change of mood when the Blues are in trouble, as the performances against the English and Moroccan Lions have shown. As he prepared for his half, Walid Regragui very quickly understood the defensive fever of the French left wing. The Moroccan coach insisted on this fragility by forcing the offensives to the left in front of the tricolor defense (53% of Moroccan attacks against the Blues came from this side). If his goal scored after six minutes of play (which broke an old record) saved his specimen, the reigning Italian champion’s defensive performance proved somewhat worrying before facing a certain Lionel Messi.
Kyk is in the paws
Scorer and decisive double passer in this Qatar World Cup, Theo Hernandez can therefore highlight his offensive contribution. But his breakthrough is not necessarily covered by a Sandro Tonali, who in Milan takes care of the rear of the native of Marseille. But it is above all the presence in his lane of Kylian Mbappé that really prevents him from exploiting his full offensive potential. If the two men managed to combine against Denmark with a sublime decisive pass from Theo to “Kyk’s”, the coexistence remains close and complicated between the two men. Due to a lack of automation, they often end up stepping on each other. Unlike Milan, where Rafael Leão tends to return to the axis to leave the corridor for Hernandez, Mbappé generally remains firm in his line and leaves nothing, not even crumbs, to the former teammate of Cristiano Ronaldo.
4:39 – Theo Hernandez?? (4 minutes and 39 seconds) is the fastest scorer in a World Cup semi-final since 1958, when Brazil’s Vavá scored against France in the second minute. pic.twitter.com/IN23kW6ElZ
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) 14 December 2022
In this World Cup, the Lombard team thus has a much lower offensive contribution than in Milan: 2.2 shots/game on average in Serie A since the start of the season, against an average of one shot per game in Qatar. At DD, the full-backs are above all defenders, and this also applies to Theo Hernandez (2.6 successful tackles/game in this World Cup against 1.8 in Serie A this season). “In Milan, Theo is much freer and projects himself much more forwardrightly noted Arrigo Sacchi in the columns of Gazzetta dello Sport. It is completely different with France, where he is asked to respect the true role of defender. »
La Pulga, the showdown
After the win against the Atlas Lions, Theo Hernandez appeared in front of the media with a smile on his face before letting go: “Messi doesn’t scare me.” Courage or determination, whatever happens, the Marseille native will have to erase his lack of defensive rigor against the competition’s second top scorer. Apart from the fact that Lionel Messi has had fun with opposition defenses since the start of the tournament – which in itself is already a sufficient argument – the seven-time Ballon d’Or is typically the style of play that the French team fears.
As proof of the ordeal he suffered against Bukayo Saka, with whom, all things considered, he has some similarities Pulga. Small, lively, able to make the difference in small spaces and with excellent game vision, the England right-back gave him a lesson for 90 minutes. That night, Theo Hernandez won just 50% of his face-offs, dropped eleven balls and managed just one interception. Against Argentina, there are therefore still questions about the solidity of this tricolor left lane. The Blues must not put themselves in the same situation as in the previous two rounds. Faced with a Lionel Messi from the great nights, Theo Hernandez will not only have to rely on his exuberant energy, but above all on his defensive rigor. That’s what we expect from a defender first and foremost, isn’t it?
By Tristan Pubert