In what seems to be something of a recurring theme this World Cup, the underdog gave a really good account of themselves against one of the favourites. Peru were the latest side to join the ‘nearly’ men as they came within reach of toppling France but instead bowed out of the Cup on the back of their 1-0 defeat.
Much like their opener against Australia, France were far from the team their star-studded lineup suggests it can be. Then again with the line between the big and small teams blurred more than ever, a 100% record is a fine start to the tournament.
Manager Didier Deschamps went for experience over youthful exuberance for this game, bringing in Olivier Giroud and Blaise Matuidi for Ousmane Dembélé and Corentin Tolisso. France’s attack against the Aussies was rightly accused of being overly fluid with Mbappé, Griezmann and Dembélé between them failing to provide a focal point for the team’s efforts going forward. Giroud’s inclusion for the latter allowed the play to flow through him and after a slew of chances following a slow start, the French took the lead in the 34th minute.
Paul Pogba was expectedly in the thick of things when he stole the ball off Peru skipper Paolo Guerrero inside the final third before slipping Giroud in. The forward’s blocked shot fell kindly to Mbappé who had the simplest of finishes from a couple of yards out to send his team into the break deservedly in front.
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The second half was a completely different story, however, as the Peruvians came racing out of the blocks. The introduction of Jefferson Farfán gave them greater dynamism and it was he who set up Pedro Aquino’s cracker from distance, but one which ultimately bounced off Hugo Lloris’s post. Having smelt blood, Peru continued to keep France pinned back inside their own half and despite threatening to come close, they never did. Try as they would, the pacy blonde duo of André Carrillo and Luis Advíncula down the right wing always seemed to run into dead ends. Speculative efforts from distance by the Los Incas failed to truly engage Hugo Lloris until a weak effort from 30 yards by their talismanic captain, Paolo Guerrero in the 87th minute. Much had been made of his ban and ultimate reversal of it in the run-up to the finals, but his, and indeed Peru’s, moment never came.
From the moment Christian Cueva skied his penalty in their first game against Denmark, the tone for their campaign had been set. The Peruvians will take little solace from their impressive displays and will be leaving Russia with nothing but regrets.
As for France, their focus shifts to their clash against Denmark in Moscow. As resilient as their rearguard has looked, the golden touch continues to elude their attack. With qualification to the Round of 16 guaranteed, perhaps their players will be afforded the freedom that will see their true quality shine. The slick interplay and sweeping forward moves in the first half were much more frequent than in their previous game, but still not suggestive enough of the true potential of their talent. Job done for now, but it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for Deschamps’s men, who need to figure out the formula of champions – and fast.
Feature Image via SB Nation
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