Real Madrid Raphael Varane may have grabbed all the headlines on Tuesday night as he captained France and also scored the only goal of the game, but defensively, he wasn’t as impressive as his Manchester City teammate.
Eliaquim Mangala missed France’s 1-1 draw with Albania on Friday, but returned to partner Varane against Sweden at the Stade Velodrome and helped Didier Deschamps's side to a clean sheet against the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-less Swedes.
Injuries to both Laurent Koscielny and Mamadou Sakho has opened a place in Deschamps's starting XI, and Mangala would have been delighted to return to fitness in order to show the France coach what he can do next to the Real Madrid starlet.
Defensively it was the Manchester City man that came out on top statistically, according to WhoScored.com. The 23-year-old made seven clearances, one interception and one tackle, while Varane made five clearances and the same number of interceptions.
Mangala was also very impressive in the air, showing his dominance against the Swedish forwards, winning four aerial battles to Varane’s two.
Sweden may have only managed five shots on goal, two of them on target, but the French duo dealt with any threat the Scandinavians could muster.
In Tuesday’s partnership, Varane was the defensive playmaker; he saw more of the ball than Mangala, made more passes and completed more long balls.
With a pass completion percentage of 95.5% and 54 touches, the £35 million signing completed the game by doing the simple things well and never over complicated his game.
Mangala will now be favourite to continue as Varane’s partner in the lead up to the 2016 European Championships. Roma’s Mapou Yanga-M’Biwa picked up a knock after the Albania game and Loic Perrin and Kurt Zouma are unlikely to make the squad.
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Mangala was the fourth-choice of the French central defenders, but the former FC Porto man has continued to prove that he is well worthy of a place in Deschamps’s starting XI.
If the defender can continue to shine for club and country, he will be guaranteed a start come 2016.