France pop Peru bubble as Giroud reminds Deschamps of his worth
France 1 Peru 0
Rarely can a guest have brought so much to a party and yet left so early.
France are safely into the last 16 of the World Cup but the most salient and sad fact feels like the confirmation that Peru, and a vast group of fans who have charmed Russia over this past week, can already start planning their long journey home.
Having already been beaten by Denmark after playing good, technical football without any real cutting edge, Peru were defeated here by an improving France team after playing, yes, some good technical football without any real cutting edge.
They rarely threatened to stop France once Kylian Mbappe, at the age of just 19, had become his country's youngest player to score at a major finals.
David Trezeguet set the previous record at the 1998 World Cup, which France went on to win, and was here last night to watch. An omen, perhaps?
France certainly remain a work in progress but with Olivier Giroud recalled to their starting team, the attack suddenly had the focus it had so lacked in beating Australia.
Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann were consequently far more threatening. Trezeguet had been in Russia as the guest of honour and, like every other French fan, certainly found himself in a minority.
More than 25,000 Peru supporters are following their first participation in a World Cup finals since 1982 and, in all four sides of the Ekateringburg Arena, their distinct white-and-red kit was the dominant sight.
Despite packages costing as much as 40 times the average monthly wage, entire families of Peruvians have added to the atmosphere and sense of occasion with their passion and friendly nature.
"These people are incredible," said the Peru manager Ricardo Gareca.
"We are pained, sorry we couldn't give them a better tournament but we gave it our all."
France, too, look like they are gathering strength, even if manager Didier Deschamps's irritation at facing questions about his team's second-half dip was obvious.
"We are happy to qualify - our game was more fluid and flowing," he said.
"I saw Spain against Iran and they spent the last 10 minutes defending. If you want 5-0, don't come to a World Cup."
Deschamps had previously unleashed Mbappe, Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele in a 4-3-3 system against Australia and, while his theory was bold, the practical application was of three strikers making similar runs and getting in one another's way.
Giroud made the rest of the attacking unit look more effective and comfortable. A brilliantly cushioned header down to Griezmann as he backed into the Peru defenders created France's clear chance.
It was then the Chelsea striker's run into the channel that was wonderfully picked out by Paul Pogba. His shot was blocked by Alberto Rodriguez but Mbappe gratefully followed in to score France's winner.
"Olivier's connections were very good," said Deschamps. "All the players around him, especially Antoine, had a lot of exchanges and passes.
"It is very often when he is not on the pitch that we realise how useful he is." (© The Daily Telegraph, London)
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