France booked their place in the Round of 16 as they beat Peru 1-0 to send La Blanquirrojo packing at the Ekaterinburg Arena on Thursday.
The game was an intense affair from start to finish, with Peru taking the game to France. But, Les Bleus kept on creating the more meaningful of chances, with the likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Raphael Varane all coming close. The deadlock was finally broken in the 34th minute as Kylian Mbappe became the youngest goalscorer at the World Cup for France.
The second half saw Peru dominating much of the proceedings, but as was the case in their opening game against Denmark, they couldn’t make their chances count. In the end, France held on to their slender advantage to reach the Round of 16, while La Blanquirrojo went crashing out of the World Cup in the group stage. We take a look at three players who impressed the most.
If there’s a player who embodies the word enigma in football, it is Paul Pogba. Blessed with oodles and oodles of talent, there are times when the Manchester United superstar effortlessly runs games on his own – as he should. But then, all too often, he also showcases a frustrating tendency to switch off and drift out of the game.
On Thursday, it was the first version of Pogba that raised his hand up and decided to take charge of the proceedings. The 25-year-old kept things simple at all times and was at the heart of everything that France created in the game. But, where he impressed most was his contribution on the defensive side of the game.
Pogba made 10 recoveries in addition to a couple of interceptions and as many tackles in the match, while also creating two chances. The biggest moment for him in the game showcased his all round ability perfectly, as he broke up the opposition play before setting off the move that led to Mbappe’s goal.
More such performances and France will soon be a fearsome side in the most crucial rounds. And, Manchester United might just have to look over their shoulder, with a possible offer from Barcelona looming.
Olivier Giroud added a new dimension in the final third for Les Bleus, which was extremely crucial to secure all three points. Kylian Mbappe got the all-important winner and was a constant threat. But, Kante makes our list ahead of the duo as his contribution went a long way in ensuring France kept their lead intact.
The Chelsea superstar was colossal in the middle of the park for France as he tirelessly ran all through the 90 minutes, cutting off the Peruvian supply line before it reached the defence for the most part. So much so, that the first 45 minutes of the game could perhaps, even be termed as his best ever half for the National Side.
His anticipation is well and truly astounding, while his numbers make for a staggering read. Kante made 4 tackles and as many interceptions in addition to 3 clearances. His 13 completed recoveries mean he has now recovered the ball 27 times in two games – one less than the highest tally for France in 2014. A true behemoth in midfield, and one can only wonder where Kante gets all this energy from.
Ever so often, one comes across players who leave a mark despite unluckily ending up on the losing side. On Thursday, Carrillo was of that mould, as he worked his socks off to somehow get at least one point for Peru. Alas, it wasn’t to be, despite his best efforts.
The Watford man was a handful for the opposition full-back from the get-go, be it from the left wing or the right, as Ricardo Gareca kept switching him to either flank every now and then. He even came close to breaking Peru’s duck himself in the second half, while trying to make things happen until the very last moment.
Carrillo put in a big shift defensively as well, coming to his full-back’s aid whenever needed. The points may have deserted him and Peru, but Carrillo & co. will have won a lot of hearts before heading back home for the tremendous efforts they put in.