France defeated Peru 1-0 to advance to the round of sixteen. Peru is sent packing.
The Guardians Amy Lawrence:” The audacity of youth was unfurled all its swaggering glory. Kylian Mbappé bounded off after scoring the match-winner to decide an absorbing game, his first on this stage, and one that could not have been easier. Then he suddenly stopped and shrugged, as if to say, what is the fuss all about?
Life moves pretty fast for Mbappé. The whirlwind forward, already the most expensively valued teenager in football, became France’s youngest ever goalscorer at a major tournament and took it all in that easy stretch of a stride.
He broke a record that had stood since the World Cup in 1998 (just a few months before he was born) when David Trezeguet scored against Saudi Arabia. In a moment of sweet symmetry, a grey-suited Trezeguet just happened to be watching on from the stands in Ekaterinburg, a guest of honour for this match.
It was riveting, its tightly bound emotions propelling both teams to give everything to reach their stated goal. France found a mix of enough style and substance to seal qualification. Unfortunately for Peru, their was no reward for their gutsy, energised display. A second defeat ends their hopes of reaching the next round, even if the adventure off the pitch with their army of fervent supporters will go on for the next game at least. At times this felt like the Lima of the Urals, with Peru’s bouncing red and white mass crammed into the seats that had lain empty for Egypt against Uruguay.
The excitement levels were raised in the 6th minute when Yoshimar Yotún tried an audacious lob from close to the half way line. It skimmed the roof of Hugo Lloris’s net. France needed sangfroid. When they pieced together some early possession the whistles cascaded down from the stands, so they needed to master the atmosphere as well as the technical questions of the game all at once.
The inclusion of Olivier Giroud, designed to give the team more balance and to allow others around him to have more freedom to do damage, made an instant impression. Giroud bustled up front, fighting for possession and looking every inch the big man towering over Peru’s defenders. He gave France a target that was perfect for Antoine Griezmann and Mbappé to buzz around. They put Peru under pressure with a series of chances which all originated from Giroud’s knock-downs and buildup play. Griezmann twice darted on to shoot. Mbappé was sandwiched by defenders as he sped onto another assist. The chances, ominously for Peru, kept coming as the influential Paul Pogba let fly from long range and Raphaël Varane glanced wide from a corner.
Peru had to hang on, regain a footing, and they suddenly found room to carve an opening on the half hour mark. Miguel Trauco’s cross sliced through the France defence and Paolo Guerrero intuitively stepped in front of Samuel Umtiti for a one-on-one with Lloris. He shot low but it was close enough for the France keeper to parry.
The response came quickly. Pogba won the ball off Guerrero in the centre of midfield and played a clever pass for Giroud, whose effort took a looping ricochet off Alberto Rodríguez. The ball spun, almost in slow motion, and as Peru’s stranded goalkeeper could only helplessly watch the trajectory Mbappé arrived to tap into the empty net.
The moments when Mbappé and Greizmann put set the afterburners purring were too much for Peru. Mbappé even began to showboat, with a flick here and a chop there, enjoying the opportunity to express himself.
Ricardo Gareca made changes at half-time. Desperate measures and all that. On came Jefferson Farfán to provide another attacking option paired with Guerrero. Peru were soon on the attack, and Pedro Aquino shot with glorious power and swerve only to see his effort crack against a post.
Peru had fresh wind in their sails and swarmed forward with extra intent. The crosses were fizzed in, André Carillo swept a shot over the bar and Luis Advíncula smashed in another that was even more fierce. Farfán whipped in from an angle and hit the side-netting. The crowd did their utmost to will one of these opportunities in as the emotion swirled around the stadium.
It was not to be. Lloris collected his 100th cap without ever being overly troubled and France advance emboldened by their improvement.