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.
Instead, it is the Socceroos who still have something to chase for in that match while Gareca’s men will be playing merely for pride.
Man of the match – Olivier Giroud (France)
‘We will finish our campaign with the same attitude’ – reaction
France coach Didier Deschamps: “We are in the knockout stages so we are very satisfied.
“It was tougher in the second period. We played a better game in the first half – it was more fluid and flowing. However, we were solid after the break which helped us get this result.
“The defending doesn’t just come from the defence – the attacking players helped the team be more compact. This aided with the recovering of the ball in the first half – less so in the second half.”
Peru coach Pedro Gallese: “We thank the Peruvian fans so much for the great support in Russia.
“We left everything on the field against two very tough opponents. But this does not end here, we are going to close the World Cup with the same attitude.”
Plenty of shots but no goals – the stats
- France are unbeaten in their past eight World Cup fixtures against Conmebol opposition (W4 D4).
- They have kept a clean sheet in each of their past seven World Cup games against South American sides – last conceding in a World Cup quarter-final against Brazil in 1986.
- Peru are winless in their past eight World Cup matches (D2 L6), scoring just two goals in this run.
- France have qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup for the sixth time in their past eight appearances in the competition – only failing to in 2002 and 2010.
- Peru are just the second South American side to fail to qualify for the World Cup knockout stages in the last three tournaments – the other being Ecuador in 2014.
- Ricardo Gareca’s side have attempted 27 shots without scoring at the 2018 World Cup finals; only Morocco (28) have had more without a goal.
- Kylian Mbappe has been directly involved in eight goals in his past nine games for France (four goals, four assists).
- He has become the youngest player to ever score a goal for France at a major tournament (19 years, 183 days).
- Mbappe is the first player born after France’s 1998 World Cup triumph to score a goal at the finals.
- French captain Hugo Lloris is the seventh player to reach 100 caps with France – keeping a clean sheet in this match.
France finish off their Group C campaign against Denmark next Tuesday at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium (15:00 BST) and Peru face Australia at the same time at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi.