France go head to head with Peru at the Ekaterinburg Arena on Thursday, but who are the three players worth taking a closer look at in the game?
Day Eight of the 2018 FIFA World Cup will see the second round of the group stage fixtures continue. At the Ekaterinburg Arena, France and Peru will meet each other in the fourth Group C game, looking to take another step towards booking a place in the Round of 16.
Peru, on the other hand, will be smarting from their close defeat at the hands of Denmark and will be eager to get back to winning ways against Les Bleus. But, who are the players who can make a lasting impact on the game? The Hard Tackle takes a closer look.
France might have started their World Cup campaign with a win, but many would say that they were pretty lucky to have left with all three points. It certainly is surprising as it is widely accepted that Didier Deschamps has perhaps, the most talented squad at his disposal at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
But talent does not always translate to the best of results on the field, as was starkly visible last weekend against Australia, with the attack bearing a disjointed, one-dimensional look. That is exactly why Olivier Giroud is expected to get the nod as the focal point of the France attack on Thursday.
There is a reason why the often derided Chelsea striker is the top scorer for Les Bleus under Deschamps’ reign as he lends balance to the side and provides a constant outlet for the wide players. His presence also brings the best out of Griezmann, who can play off him, fall back into spaces and link-up play instead of being the player to make runs off the defenders’ shoulders.
Against Australia, Giroud’s arrival on the pitch was a major reason why France started threatening more in the latter stages of the game, and it was the Chelsea striker who player a major role as Deschamps & co. went on to clinch all three points.
The ban on the captain was lifted, and Peru would finally focus their attention firmly on making it a successful return to the World Cup after a 36-year wait. But, the first game back turned out to be quite the anti climax as despite impressing a lot, La Blanquirrojo had nothing to show for their efforts.
However, there were a number of positives that Ricardo Gareca would have taken from the loss to build upon a promising opening game. One such positive was the sharpness and form that captain Paolo Guerrero displayed in his half-hour cameo off the bench.
Most importantly, Peru threatened more as an attacking unit rather than just the individual making most of the impression. Gareca’s men had more structure in the final third, with Guerrero offering them different options in and around the opposition box.
The head coach was impressed by his outing as well, and it is likely that the Peru captain will feature from the off, which should also provide a confidence boost to the side.
Australia did their bits in their match against France last Saturday, but their major weapon was a swift counter-attack instead of threatening constantly be pressing high up the pitch. Peru though, will be completely different customers in that regard, and will take the game to Les Bleus.
Kante’s role will, thus, be much more vital on Thursday as, with his all action, tireless pressing will key to stifle the Peru attack and build up play for France at the same time. His performance will also be key for Paul Pogba, who will need the freedom to make an impact in the final third rather than focusing on the defensive aspect of the game.
Therefore, while the spotlight will definitely be on the French attackers to produce the good, Kante will be needed to be the silent workhorse for the front men to flourish on Thursday afternoon.