World Cup – Group C, June 21 2018
France eliminated Peru and sealed their place in the knockout round of the 2018 World Cup through Kylian Mbappe's first-half finish. A noisy Ekaterinburg Arena was filled with passionate Peruvians, but their spirit failed to light the fire of their players. Despite putting up a fight in the second half as they searched for an equaliser, Ricardo Gareca's team couldn't prevent their exit. Mbappe was the hero for the French after sending Olivier Giroud's deflected shot into the back of the net in the 34th minute. Following a disappointing display in their opening win over Australia, Les Bleus, worryingly for their rivals, now seem to be getting into the rhythm of things.
12 / 4
SHOTS / ON TARGET
11 / 2
Passes / Accurate
11 / 2 / 0
Fouls / Yellow / Red
15 / 2 / 0
France began their second game of the 2018 World Cup tournament with one change from their opening game against Australia. The defence-minded Blaise Matuidi took the place of Ousmane Dembele in midfield, perhaps in the hope that he could help to release Paul Pogba higher in attack by overloading the left inside channel.
Les Bleus initially struggled to maintain any form of meaningful possession, as Peru exploded into life from the first whistle. Olivier Giroud failed to hold or protect any of the loose balls, as France were kept deep inside their own half.
As the 10th minute approached, though, Giroud and Griezmann started to show signs of a well-connected attacking partnership, with Griezmann running on to a flick from Giroud before shooting wide from close range.
France started to increasingly find Kylian Mbappe, as the quick-footed attacker began to create from wide right. Matuidi also drifted inside, which lured the Peru right-back temporarily out of line. Although Pogba didn’t exploit the space behind, Lucas Hernandez did, as he charged forwards from left-back.
Peru’s congested central midfield ensured early access to the feet of Griezmann was limited. The Atletico Madrid man therefore looked to connect with the wide players and build in the channels. Mbappe frequently drove infield with the ball, looking to create with Giroud, but the Peru back line remained patient as Mbappe tried to draw fouls in dangerous areas.
Pogba and N’Golo Kante were too slow in possession against a forceful midfield press from Peru. France reacted by bypassing their central midfield with more direct passes into Giroud. This method seemed their most effective way to connect defence and attack, as the access to their central attackers remained limited.
Didier Deschamps' side opened the scoring as Pogba aggressively won the ball back from Peru’s first real attempt to play out from the back. The Manchester United midfielder set Giroud on his way to goal, with his deflected shot falling kindly to Mbappe to tap home from close range.
France’s chances were limited for the remainder of the first half, however, as Peru responded to conceding by increasing their attacking threat. Pogba’s deeper positioning gradually drew out the Peruvian midfield block, as the midfielder began to dictate the majority of the French attacks.
With Pogba deeper, Griezmann now found himself with more space in between the lines to receive. Pogba’s clips over the back line caused additional problems, as goalkeeper Pedro Gallese looked unwilling to claim loose balls in behind their defence. Well-timed runs from Mbappe nearly added a second goal, but the youngster couldn't quite reach Pogba’s passes from deep.
France were uninspiring in possession throughout the second half, and failed to effectively link with Giroud as part of their final-third entries. Mbappe became the main source of attack, as they converted into a more transitional approach.
Mbappe remained higher when France were defending, allowing the young attacker to drive forward from a higher starting position. Although this did briefly expose Benjamin Pavard at right-back, Kante was superb in putting a halt to any attacks from their opponents.
France gradually reduced the distances between their units, remaining compact until the final whistle. With Peru struggling to implement high-quality final balls, the French back line had enough experience to see out the game.
A deafening barrage of noise and support in a stadium dominated by Peru fans clearly inspired their side’s midfield into an aggressive and forceful early pressing game.
France failed to make any forward progress during the opening 10 minutes, as the Peru back line squeezed Olivier Giroud, ensuring that the ball remained lodged in the France half. Andre Carrillo charged down Peru’s right side, looking to test out the defensive capabilities of Lucas Hernandez. Despite some good early progress, the French back line remained resolute.
Defensively, Peru dropped into a 4-1-4-1 structure, aiming to block off access into Antoine Griezmann’s feet. As Didier Deschamps’ players started to build with more patience, Peru saw less of the ball, as their frantic pressing game had only briefly rattled the French build-up.
Peru’s own build from the goalkeeper was generally long into Paolo Guerrero, but Kante expertly recovered any knockdowns for midfield runners. Carrillo continued to be their best attacking outlet, as the midfielder drove forward with the ball, gradually relieving pressure from his back line.
Maximum width from the wingers stretched France’s defence, as gaps and pockets suddenly became vacant. However, with both Paul Pogba and Kante remaining deep within central areas, they didn’t have the passing connections or capabilities to penetrate so intricately. They continued to build in the wings, as a result, but provided limited crosses into the France penalty area. The lone forward Guerrero tried to make the most of any balls into him, whether via throw-in or hopeful long balls forward.
Incisive movements from Cueva – as he rotated with Flores from the centre to the left – confused right-back Benjamin Pavard. Their best chance fell at the 30-minute mark, as Cueva and Flores expertly broke free and finally delivered an accurate ball into Guerrero.
The tall striker moved the ball out of his feet past Samuel Umtiti, and struck a low shot directly at Hugo Lloris. It was a wasted chance, as they failed to really test Lloris again until mid-way through the second half. Despite going behind, Peru continued to build using the width of the midfield unit, as the defence failed to provide splitting passes into their central attacking midfielders.
Peru emerged from the break with the same tempo and aggression that appeared in the early stages of the first half. They continued to work the ball in the channels, as Kylian Mbappe’s recovery runs were sporadic at best. This enabled Cueva to again rotate to the left, and attack Pavard one-versus-one.
One of Pogba or Kante began to cover for Mbappe, which eventually nullified Cueva’s potential. However, this opened up the central lane for Pedro Aquino to strike from distance. His shot pounded the crossbar as Peru finally appeared to have made a central breakthrough.
Sensing the space, Carrillo moved infield from the right, but without Luis Advincula overlapping from right-back, Peru’s full width in attack didn't last. An experienced back line such as France’s were more than capable of defending attacks without full width.
This proved to be Peru’s major downfall, as Advincula sporadically overlapped, with inconsistent results. The threat of Peru’s right-sided attacks were eventually reduced, as the decision to deploy Matuidi on France’s left side proved effective. This personnel set up ensured France were far more defensively stable compared to if Ousmane Dembele or Nabil Fekir were selected.
Crosses into the box were again dealt with by the French back line, as Guerrero became frustrated with inconsistent deliveries. Despite throwing players forward and genuinely looking to win the game, Peru lacked quality final balls and an effective goalscorer who could ultimately turn half-chances into goals.
Author: Tony Hodson