Kylian Mbappe’s first-half strike helped France overcome – and eliminate – a resilient Peru to earn a spot in the knockout round of the World Cup.
Ricardo Gareca’s side, buoyed on by their passionate support inside the Ekaterinburg Arena, came alive in the second half after falling behind in the 34th minute but ultimately could not find the equaliser that would have prevented their exit.
Monaco’s Mbappe was the player to punish the Peruvians when he tapped in Olivier Giroud’s deflected shot, coming after a period of France dominance.
But it was Peru who had the upper hand after the break. Midfielder Pedro Aquino went closest to levelling when his stunning strike cannoned off the bar.
Benfica’s Andre Carrillo, who was on loan at Watford last season, also tested Hugo Lloris’ goal with a strike while substitute Jefferson Farfan hooked his effort into the side-netting.
France’s defence remained resolute to the final whistle, although they have yet to convince fully that they are one of the favourites for title.
Giroud inclusion enhances France
The French are beginning to simmer.
After unremarkable 2-1 win over Australia, Didier Deschamps’ men produced an improved display, aided by the inclusion of striker Olivier Giroud.
The Chelsea striker, a 70th-minute substitute last week, was the focal point of many French first-half sorties – fulfilling his duties of holding up the ball, and allowing Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe to join in a three-pronged attack.
In the build-up to the match, Deschamps suggested that Giroud had not, on occasions, been on the same wavelength as his team-mates. However, on Thursday he was in tune within minutes of the first whistle.
Early on, a one-two with the pacy Mbappe ended with the Monaco forward falling in the area before Giroud set up Griezmann, whose low strike was blocked by keeper Pedro Gallese.
Peru’s backline was finally pierced when Giroud’s low deflected shot looped towards goal and was given the finishing touch by Mbappe.
Deschamps is spoiled with attacking riches, but because of his more cautious instincts, it came as little surprise that France sat back after the interval and soaked up the Peruvian pressure.
The tactic paid off against the minnows, but he might have to revise that plan against stronger opposition.
Peru – brave but no reward
The World Cup will be all the poorer after the elimination of Peru.
Their fans, numbering approximately 43,000, have lifted the World Cup with their colour, flamboyance and noise. And the team have produced two competitive displays against two more established sides at this level of competition.
As seen on many previous occasions, minnows rarely seem to get a rub of the green. Had Aquino’s blockbuster of an effort with the outside of his boot moved two inches to the right then we might have been talking about a must-win final match against Australia.
As it is, it is the Socceroos who still have something to chase for in that match while Gareca’s men will be playing merely for pride.