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The Raphael Varane effect: three standout performances from the France centre-back in Qatar 2022

Having originally been a doubt for this winter’s tournament, Manchester United’s very own Raphael Varane has put in several stellar performances for his national side. With France making it to yet another World Cup final, here is a list of three standout performances from Varane in Qatar 2022.

France 3-1 Poland, round of 16

United’s Number 19 actually missed Les Bleus’ opener against Australia due to being in rehabilitation for an injury picked up in our last-gasp 1-1 draw against Chelsea in October. The match finished 4-1 despite Didier Deschamps’ side conceding early to a Craig Goodwin strike. Since then, France have been rampant, and boast Paddy Power World Cup odds of 7/4 to be victorious in the final in Lusail.

Varane’s first full 90 minutes of action came in the knockout stages of the tournament in what was his 90th game for his country. Were it not for a 99th-minute Robert Lewandowski penalty, the 29-year-old would have celebrated the occasion with another clean sheet to add to his five in the Premier League this season. The 2022 final has Argentina vs France betting odds of 6/1 to be goalless after 120 minutes, which would see Varane keep a clean sheet for the second time all tournament. While France did concede against Poland, the centre-back’s four interceptions and 91% passing accuracy highlight his ability to make contributions beyond merely stopping the opposition from scoring. 

France 2-0 Morocco, semi-finals

In the tournament’s semi-final, however, Varane did exactly that. Morocco soon became the 2022 World Cup’s biggest overperformers, with Walid Regragui’s side finishing top of a group containing fellow semi-finalists Croatia and second-ranked Belgium, who were eliminated at the earliest stage of the competition. Morocco then celebrated famous victories against Spain in the last 16, on penalties, followed by a 1-0 win against Portugal in the quarter-finals. However, the Atlas Lions were unable to take a third successive European scalp when they faced the holders France in the semis.

That is not for the want of trying, though, and is largely down to Varane’s valiant display in the French back line. Once again playing the full 90 minutes for Deschamps in a tournament crunch match, United’s centre-back contributed with two clearances and a 93% passing accuracy, which often saw him use the ball in long passes out wide. His tactical nous off the ball was just as impressive as his abilities on it, as he helped keep a whopping 13 attempts at bay, with Morocco losing 2-0 despite boasting 61% possession.

England 1-2 France, quarter-finals

Varane came up against several familiar faces when Les Bleus took on England in a blockbuster quarter-final clash. France took an early lead on 17 minutes, before a Harry Kane penalty levelled the scoring 10 minutes after half time. France’s leading ever scorer Olivier Giroud made it 2-1 with 12 minutes to go, with Kane missing England’s second penalty on 84 minutes to send the Three Lions home.

While goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris received many of the plaudits, the efforts of Varane cannot be underestimated, particularly considering the underperformance of his defensive partner. The 29-year-old made four clearances and blocked a crucial shot mid-way through the game, while also winning two of his three aerial duals. His display sent France through at the expense of United teammates Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford, and put Varane within touching distance of securing his second successive World Cup trophy.

After several superb performances for France, United look to be in safe hands when club football returns after the international break.