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France is best when they play to Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann's strengths

Some route-one build-up play proved surprisingly fruitful as France came from behind to beat the Republic of Ireland.

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France are unquestionably one of the most talented teams at Euro 2016, which only serves to make it all the more amusing that they resorted to one of football's oldest tactical tropes in their 2-1 comeback victory over the Republic of Ireland in their Round of 16 victory on Sunday. It was not intricate build-up play, fleet-footed skill or devastating pace that eventually earned them a place in the quarterfinals, but the superb combination between resident "big man" Olivier Giroud and his diminutive companion Antoine Griezmann, who finished the game having scored both of his side's goals.

Despite Giroud toiling throughout the first half, earning criticism from all quarters for his clumsy attempts at combination play, France coach Didier Deschamps resisted the urge to withdraw him. It was a decision that paid great dividends. Instead, France switched to an approach that exaggerated Giroud's strengths, aiming long balls towards the Arsenal target man. By quickening their build-up play, France managed to find space between the Irish lines, space in which the outstanding Griezmann -- who had been shifted central after a nominal starting position out on the flank -- could do real damage.

There remains a long ball taboo in football, and it's not without reason. As Spain showed in their three consecutive major tournament victories between 2008 and 2012, penetrative possession is by far the most dominant tactical approach that modern football has seen. But part of the reason for that dominance is that at an international level, only Spain are capable of executing such a style. The other big international teams often resemble a pale imitation of their Spanish counterparts, seeing plenty of the ball but failing to create many chances with it. When they end up winning — as the hosts did in late victories over Romania and Albania in the group stages — it looks more a happy accident than the smooth execution of a clever blueprint.

And yet, Deschamps' switch in France's win over Ireland was undoubtedly efficacious. After a disappointing first half in which Les Bleus struggled to get to grips with their opponent's surprisingly intense pressing game, they opted for pragmatism rather than a blunt possession game. It wasn't pretty, but it was a strategy built to the strengths of their attackers, rather than the other way around. It enabled them to create a string of goalscoring opportunities after a first half in which they had barely ever carved the stubborn Irish defence open. The winner was pure caveman football at its best.

Credit: user IwanJones10 on r/soccer

Time will tell whether this is the best strategy for France for the remainder of the tournament. Against bigger and more adventurous teams, it may well be that Deschamps will have to look for alternative solutions, such as sitting deep and utilising the speed offered by the likes of Griezmann and Kingsley Coman on the counter-attack. But for now, Deschamps can be content with his day's work. With Plan A having proved fruitless, his long-ball gamble paid dividends, ensuring France safe passage into the quarterfinals as a result.