Few players in world football end up as decorated in their entire career as Selma Bacha already is. The 22-year-old France and Lyon left-back and left winger has four Champions League trophies to her name, as well as four league titles in the Division 1 Féminine and a handful of medals in cup competitions.
Having come through the youth ranks at Lyon, Bacha broke into the first team at the age of just 17 in 2017/18, and she quickly became first-choice in her position. At the end of the season, she started the Champions League final, which Lyon won, beating Wolfsburg 4-1.
Bacha has become one of football's biggest and most successful stars in the first five years of her career, and she has now also been featured in the UEFA’s new Recognise Game series, focusing on players in the Women’s Champions League. Here, we assess her rising talent.
Bacha is a versatile left-footed player, with experience as a full-back and on the wing. She provides a variety of crosses from the left side, and also offers impressive dead-ball ability, too. She has a particularly effective driven technique, which has proved useful both in open play and at set-pieces.
In open play, she varies her crosses depending on the position she is playing and where she is on the pitch. She can make cut-backs, play lofted crosses towards runners at the back post, and whip balls across goal all equally well. However, her strongest delivery method is a driven ball played towards the back post (below). This is usually used from a more withdrawn position, when she is no higher than the edge of the penalty area. When playing at left-back, she uses this low-trajectory ball to aim for teammates who are running diagonally across their opponent into the penalty area, and she will also use it when playing on the wing but before she attempts any dribble.
With this drilled technique, the ball moves quickly through the air, but then drops quickly, which makes it ideal for runners at the back post to have first-time efforts at goal, or to play the ball back across goal for another runner. When she uses this technique from a dead ball, she has most success when aiming for a back-post runners who are aided by the work of a central blocker.
Higher up the pitch, Bacha will make penetrative movements in behind, especially when used as a winger or when she follows a forward pass from left-back with an overlapping run. She isn’t particularly fast, though, so she looks to get the better of her direct opponent by releasing the ball early, often with clever first-time passes or crosses.
As a result, she doesn’t dribble all that often, instead breaking lines and helping her team progress forwards through the speed and accuracy of her passing (above) and – crucially – how early she makes decisions. She also has good close control and a tight turning circle, so can get out of tight situations through her changes of speed with the ball at her feet.
She is more of a creator of goals than a scorer, largely because she tends to play on her natural flank – either in defence or midfield – so she attacks around the outside rather than infield towards goal. However, when she has been given rare opportunities to attack from the right, she has shown how good a ball-striker she is with threatening efforts on goal.
Bacha is an adept defender, happy to get stuck in and battle tenaciously to win the ball. She knows when to hold her ground and when to jump out to aggressively press and make an attempt to win the ball (below). She times these moves out of the back line very well, anticipating poor touches, misplaced passes and loose balls to win possession. When she does jump out to press, she does so with complete commitment and will never cower away from an individual battle despite being relatively small. She uses her size to her advantage, though, as she can quickly turn and retreat if she ever needs to. Bacha is very rarely caught out of position, but on the occasions she is, she reacts quickly and recovers.
When pressing high up the pitch, Bacha is also very effective thanks to her low centre of gravity and ability to adjust and change direction. She can jump out to press high to attempt to make a regain, but also back-presses just as well, working hard to help out her full-back when she caught is the wrong side of the ball. Her experience at left-back makes her effective when out of possession when pressing high.
Bacha has spent most of her career at left-back, with Lyon playing in a 4-4-2 diamond or a 4-3-3 in 2022/23. In the 4-3-3 shape, Lyon’s left winger moves inside often, creating space for Bacha to push forward and overlap (below). The front three and number 8s play with a fluid shape, and as the play is built wide, those five players rotate frequently. When this happens, Bacha is left with better options to find with passes infield, and she combines through the inside channel particularly well. These movements also create plenty of variety in terms of the kinds of crosses Bacha can put in.
When Lyon play in a 4-4-2 diamond, the narrow midfield naturally leaves lots of space for Bacha to attack into, and also provides her with lots of central teammates to combine with. However, with two players up front, Bacha is able to put deliveries into the box earlier on. She has also shown she is able to find the right-sided number 8 with longer passes and early crosses.
The downside of this shape for the full-backs is that they are exposed more often as they don’t have a midfielder ahead of them, so Bacha is left one-on-one with an opponent more frequently. In the 4-3-3, Bacha is often in the second line behind a winger, and is more focused on defending balls into the channel and covering behind the centre-backs.
When used as a winger, Bacha has operated on the left side in either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1. When higher up the pitch, Bacha holds the team’s width, and the left-back makes underlapping runs through the inside channel (below). Bacha will break lines either through her passing or with off-the-ball runs to get into positions to cross or cut the ball back. The number 8s will add to the presence in the penalty area with runs from deep, giving Bacha more teammates to aim for. The far-side number 8 and winger will be the targets for her driven balls towards the back post.
She presses well from an advanced position, using the touchline as an extra defender to give her opponent as little space to work in as possible. Her work rate and recovery runs are also very impressive, as she helps her full-back teammate to double up on the opposition’s winger. She is a switched-on defender, which only helps her with her out-of-possession work when playing on the wing. In all, Bacha is a fantastic footballer with a great deal of variety to her game.
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Author: The Coaches' Voice