France eye knockout berth, face determined Peru

Yekaterinburg, Russia: France will be keen to book an early place in the pre-quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup when they meet Peru, who are staring down the barrel of an early exit, in a Group C clash here on Thursday.

France beat Australia 2-1 in their opening match last week, while Peru had suffered a 0-1 defeat to Denmark in their campaign opener.

Although the French won their opening game 2-1 against Australia, it was a far from convincing display as their attacking trio of Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe too often looked isolated from their midfield. France scored from a penalty conversion from Antoine Griezmann and an own goal late in the game.

Considering the abundance of talents available, France are expected to play fantastic and flamboyant football. But their forward passing was not good against Australia.

Head coach Didier Deschamps has to resolve this issue against a Peru side that was unlucky to lose against Denmark and who could go into the game knowing they need a win to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

One solution would be for Griezmann to drop deeper to link with the midfield, while the introduction of Olivier Giroud for Dembele would provide a focal point for the attack and allow Griezmann and Mbappe to use the full width of the pitch to allow France more fluidity.

“We took stock of what was done well or not so well and all agree that we will have to increase our physical intensity and improve our attitude in general,” defender and vice-captain Raphael said.

“Other teams (among the favourites) did not win or even lost. We won, but we know that there are things to improve on. We know what direction we need to go in.”

The midfield will comprise of Paul Pogba, N`Golo Kante and Corentin Tolisso, while in defence, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Hernandez are certainties. Right-back position will be a toss-up between Benjamin Pavard and Djibril Sidibe.

A win for France will eliminate Peru from the group stage, since they lost to Denmark. A draw will keep their hopes alive as one point from Thursday`s game will give them confidence to defeat Australia in their third and final game.

However, Peru defender Luis Advincula is optimistic that a win is possible against France`s strong squad. “It`s going to be a tough match, we all know the quality they have, but we are eleven against eleven,” the defender said. “There are no favourites in this World Cup, it`s been shown.”

Advincula and his fellow defenders, Christian Ramos, Alberto Rodriguez and Miguel Trauco will be tasked to stop of a fast-paced talanted attack from France.

Captain and veteran striker Paolo Guerrero is expected to return to the Peru line-up after sitting on the bench during the game against Denmark. He will share attacking responsibilities with Watford`s Andre Carrillo and Lokomotiv Moscow`s Jefferson Farfan.

Christian Cueva, Edison Flores and Yoshimar Yotun will be expected to feature in midfield. Renato Tapia, who suffered an injury in the last match, is doubtful. (Courtesy IANS)