Russia 2018 watch: France muddle through against plucky Peru
PUBLISHED: 07:01 22 June 2018 | UPDATED: 08:14 22 June 2018
Read our daily World Cup blog as Layth Yousif reviews France v Peru.
I watched England draw 1-1 with France at the Stade de France two months after Les Bleus had lifted Euro 2000 to cap a memorable two years that included winning the World Cup in 1998.
That squad, featuring such footbaling giants Fabien Barthez, Lilian Thuram, Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly, Bixente Lizarazu, Patrick Vieira, Didier Deschamps, Zinedene Zidane, Manu Petit, Theirry Henry, David Trezeguet, Robert Pires, Nicholas Anelka and Sylvan Wiltord was perhaps the best international side I’ve seen in the flesh, or at least the equal of the Spain side I saw that lifted three successive international tournaments between 2008-2012.
The French side competing in the Russia edition of the global jamboree are nowhere near that level. And it shows.
Despite the transfer value of the French players estimated at more than £1 billion, compared to £36m that Ricardo Gareca’s Peru side were said to be worth you couldn’t tell during France’s victory.
Deschamps’ side may have had Antoine Griezmann, N’golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Hugo Lloris in the side, not to mention an old Arsenal favourite in Olivier Giroud – who set up the talented Kylian Mbappe for the only goal – but yet again a Les Bleus side simply did not add up to the sum of their parts.
Mbappe’s goal was notable as it made him the first goalscorer born after France’s unforgettable triumph in this tournament two years ago next month.
Deschamps as a player was a vital cog in the French wheel, and even if he was derided by Eric Cantana famously as a porteur d’eau – water carrier – his prosaic abilities were valued by the more talented members of that great team during an unrivalled era of success for a French national side.
However, his prosaic management style – croc monsieur rather than coq au vin – has already seen his side labour against a workmanlike Australian side in the first match, before another underwhelming display against the lively Peruvians.
He has been consistent in his tactics, sticking to a flat back four with three hard working midfielders that can break up play and perform swift counter-attacking to feed the lightning fast pair up top.
The formation demands hard work, which the impressive Kante and his partner Blaise Matuidi provide, but, given the amount of talent available to him this side has flattered to deceive.
Even Patric Evra in the ITV studio looked flat, despite a ridiculous bow tie and red jumper combo that wouldn’t have had anyone applauding, least of all Eni Aluko.
That said, the French have two wins from two and are through to the knock-out stages.
You can’t ask more than that.
Although a return to the French flair shown by that remarkable squad 20 years ago wouldn’t go amiss for an old football romantic such as myself.
Peru on the other hand were heroes.
They were roared on in Ekaterinburg by thousands of travelling fans whose constant noise could be heard in downtown Lima if not visitors to Machu Picchu.
They filled seats in the stadium deep in the Urals that were so conspicuously empty during the first match this venue had hosted between Egypt and Uruguay.
Their team’s energy, drive, commitment, attacking intent and agonisingly doomed shots were enthralling but it just wasn’t to be – even with such an iconic kit.
Alas, just like Morocco, the South American were excellent in attack until they ventured into the opposition’s box.
Football is cruel and there was no reward for their positive display – especially the impressive Cueva, Carillo and Farfan – that still leaves them searching for their first World Cup win since beating Scotland in Argentina in 1978.
Even Paddington Bear was gutted at the end of the match.
I know I certainly was.
*Just quick a word on Argentina’s poor performance during this tournament and their 3-0 loss against Croatia in the later game on Wednesday evening.
For me it’s not a shock and I can’t understand why so many are treating it as such. Taking nothing away from the sublime Luca Modric Argentia have been listing for a while under Jorge Sampaoli’s confused management.
They only just qualified for the World Cup with his muddled tactics. They lost 4-2 to Nigeria, 6-1 to Spain in friendlies.
Their U20 sides won five world titles from 95-07 but since then nothing - meaning a quality production line has ended.
Sampaoli has also left out a number of talented players – including Gonzalo Huguain, Paulo Dybala, Cristian Pavon and Angel Di Maria – to accommodate Lionel Messi in a formation which simply doesn’t work – and which saw five at the back and five up front by the end of the Croatia match, a perfect epitaph to a disjointed team and management.
The great Cesar Luis Menotti once said: “The team, above all, is an idea”.
Sampaoli has failed to grasp that.
Even if the prgamatic Deschamps understands the notion perfectly.