France could seal their spot in the knockout stage of the World Cup with a victory in their second game against Peru. After narrowly beating Australia 2-1, Les Bleus could put some distance between themselves and their competitors with another win.
However, it will take an improved performance to beat a gutsy Peruvian side, that showed a great deal of desire against Denmark, a game that they ultimately deserved to win.
However, what you deserve means little in the harsh reality of the game and the big issue for Ricardo Gareca is improving on his side’s shooting accuracy. They had a host of chances against the Danish, but failed to take any, as well as missing a penalty.
How they recover from such a heart-wrenching defeat will be decisive.
Last Time Out
France 2-1 Australia
History was made as VAR and goal-line technology was used for the first time in a World Cup match, as France unconvincingly beat Australia 2-1 in the opening game of Group C.
VAR was used to award Antoine Griezmann a penalty after a sliding challenge from Australia’s Josh Risdon, a penalty the Atletico Madrid forward converted to put Les Blues into the lead.
However, a loss of focus for Barcelona centre back Samuel Umtiti allowed the Socceroos a route back into the game. Mile Jedinak scored from the spot after Umtiti recklessly handled Aaron Mooy’s free kick.
Read five things we learned from France’s late victory HERE.
Despite a spritely start, with Kylian Mbappe getting in behind the defence frequently, France lost their rhythm and Australia were seemingly able to hold one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Arise Paul Pogba. Seemingly out of nowhere, Pogba’s lobbed effort took an unfortunate defelection of Australia fullback Aziz Behich to cross the line by a matter of inches, ensuring Didier Deschamps’ men opened their campaign with three points.
Peru 0-1 Denmark
Peru were unfortune to lose their opener upon their return to World Cup action after a hiatus of 36 years, with a Yussuf Poulsen goal the difference between the two nations.
Read five things we learned from Peru’s defeat HERE.
The South Americans began positively, looking to take the game to their opponents, with Andre Carrillo proving particularly dangerous down the right flank and linking up well with striker Jefferson Farfan, but a missed penalty seemed to be the turning point.
After consultation with VAR, Christian Cueva, the player fouled, blasted his spot kick wildly over the bar before half time. After the break, Denmark hit Peru on the counter, with Poulson finishing a perfectly weighted pass from Christian Eriksen.
Kasper Schmeichel denied Edison Flores an immediate equaliser, and it goes some way in explaining the result that the Danish ‘keeper was awarded the Man of the Match award.
Given their poor performance against Australia, Didier Deschamps is likely to make some personnel and tactical changes for their second game against Peru.
This could see Olivier Giroud come into the starting XI after his introduction improved Les Bleus’ performance, with Corentin Tolisso dropping to the bench.
As a result, Deschamps will have to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Griezmann dropping into the hole behind Giroud, supported by a double pivot of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
Deschamps, too, could opt to bring in Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy for starting fullbacks Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez.
After a promising performance against Denmark, manager Ricardo Gareca could name an unchanged XI against France.
However, all-time leading Peruvian goal scorer Paolo Guerrero could replace Jefferson Farfan up front to provide a stronger presence against France’s centre backs, with Farfan dropping to the left flank in place of Edison Flores.
Key Battle: Antoine Griezmann (France) vs Christian Cueva (Peru)
Christian Cueva was the heart and soul of the plucky Peruvians on Saturday, the driving force of his nation and the player that kept the performance ticking.
Despite missing a penalty – and looking absolutely devastating about it – Cueva came out all guns blazing after the break, demanding possession and injecting life into Peru’s game. The 26-year-old was confident, irrespective of his miss, taking Danish defenders on, getting the ball into the box and creating chances.
Christian Cueva vs Denmark:
- 67 touches
- 53 passes
- 4 dribbles
- 3 key passes
- 2 shots
Similarly, Griezmann is to France what Cueva is to Peru; the talisman. The Golden Boot winner at the 2016 European Championships, the 27-year-old got on the scoresheet against Australia – from the spot -, but his overall performance was far from convincing and he was ultimately substituted for Giroud in the 70th minute, with Les Blues still drawing.
Antoine Griezmann vs Australia:
- 32 touches
- 22 passes
- 0 dribbles
- 0 key passes
- 5 shots
- 1 goal
The Atletico Madrid forward was playing in front of Australia’s defence, left isolated as the lone striker in a 4-3-3, often with his back to goal. Consequently, he was very much a periphery figure, despite scoring.
With Giroud starting, the idea is for Griezmann to have possession in the hole behind him, trying to make things happen, rather than relying on a direct midfield devoid of traditional playmakers for control of the game.
The importance of Olivier Giroud
Didier Deschamps came into this World Cup without a clear idea of how to get the best of this talented generation of French footballers, and he opted to start with a front three of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, confining Olivier Giroud to the bench.
However, the aforementioned trio struggled to mesh against Australia and their performances were disjointed, failing to establish a chemistry between them. They were frequently playing in front of the Socceroos’ defence, rather than running in behind.
This is why Olivier Giroud is important. He provides a focal point to attack, a means of holding the ball up, allowing Mbappe, Griezmann and Dembele to run in behind the defence onto knockdowns from the Chelsea striker.
Moreover, France’s midfield are direct passers, not ones to retain and recycle possession, so Giroud’s presence, too, provides a focus and a target to their passing and, generally, more structure to Les Blues’ overall style of play.
A change in style
Perhaps unexpectedly, Peru, unlike other nations of their footballing stature, took to the front foot like a fish to water against Denmark and refused to sit back and let the Danish take the game to them.
They had double as many shots on target (6) as Denmark and more possession (54%), looking to get the ball forwards quickly when one, through Andre Carrillo and Christian Cueva, as well as making the most of simply having the ball.
Their positivity was admirable, but it will result in punishment against France. Perhaps a change in style is necessary.
France are a side with the personnel geared towards counter-attacking football and if Peru want to dominate the ball, the likes of Mbappe, Griezmann and Dembele will destroy them on the break.
However, the question is whether Peru are organised enough defensively to sit deep in a low block defence and withstand an inevitable French barrage.
Pulling it together
Christian Cueva cut a distraught figure come the full time whistle against Denmark. He was a man that knew he potentially blew his country’s best chance of a victory, after missing a penalty at the end of the first half.
He left the field visibly dejected at the break, with both fans chanting his name and teammates providing comfort to lift his spirits.
Cueva impressed in the second half, however, keen to make amends for his earlier error, but it proved futile and tears flowed at the end of the game.
As one of Peru’s most influential players, it’s important that Cueva composes himself in time for the France game and puts memories of the miss out of his mind, or his performances – and that of his country – could suffer.
Prediction: France 2-0 Peru
In all honesty, it really depends on what France turns up. If it’s the same side that narrowly beat Australia then Peru stand a decent chance of earning a point.
This is a superior French defence to that of Denmark, mind, and the Los Incas won’t be afforded the same number of chances.
However, if they take that game as a wake-up call and improve, then they shouldn’t have much of an issue against a Peru side who look vulnerable to the counter-attack.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group C in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?