Home Football Five Things We Learned As France Booked Their Place In The World Cup Last 16

Five Things We Learned As France Booked Their Place In The World Cup Last 16

France and Denmark knew that victory in their respective World Cup clashes on Thursday would see them safely through to the knockout stages.

Of the two sides, Didier Deschamps’ men were the only ones to book their place in the knockout stages, as a fortuitous Kylian Mbappe effort was enough to see off a determined Peru outfit. As a result, the South Americans have been knocked out with a game to spare.

Denmark meanwhile, still have a bit of work to do. Christian Eriksen’s early strike set them up for a win against Australia, but the intervention of VAR saw the Socceroos awarded a penalty for the second game running/ Mile Jedinak put it away to keep Australia in contention – though they will need to beat Peru and hope that France defeat Denmark (with the appropriate goal swing) to leapfrog the Danes into second place.

But what did we learn from an afternoon in which France strolled into last 16?

 

Deschamps’ tactics still leave a lot to be desired

Only a genius or a madman would select a central midfielder like Blaise Matuidi with the likes of Thomas Lemar, Florian Thauvin, Nabil Fekir and Ousmane Dembele left on the bench – and only the former could conceivably hope to get away with it. Matuidi failed to have the desired effect on that flank and that decision must go down as a serious error on Didier Deschamps’ part.

The manager was criticised for making too many changes for this match, moving from a 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 and changes in personnel that suggest that he is still not sure of how he wants this team to play. Expect more changes in both setup and personnel as this tournament goes on – the 4-4-2 might even get brought out at some point – but the feeling that France will progress further in spite of the manager – rather than because of him – is one that can’t be shaken.

YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 21: Blaise Matuidi of France competes with Luis Advincula of Peru during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group C match between France and Peru at Ekaterinburg Arena on June 21, 2018 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

_____

Their forwards, however, made much more of an impression

France’s biggest problem against Australia was that their forwards failed to make a significant impact, insofar as the link-up play between the three was practically non-existent and nobody was really sure of what their role was. Antoine Griezmann, in particular, looked uncomfortable as the central striker and justified the doubts about his proficiency in that role.

Here, however, they worked much better. Dropping Griezmann deeper and utilising Olivier Giroud as the focal point worked much better from a French point of view and stretched the Peruvian defence to a greater degree. Mbappe looked much sharper too and, the Matuidi misstep aside, there was enough he to suggest that this is the system to use in games where France are expected to control proceedings.

TOPSHOT - France's forward Kylian Mbappe (R) celebrates scoring the opening goal with his teammate forward Antoine Griezmann during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between France and Peru at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg on June 21, 2018. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)

_____

Peru are left to rue missed chances from their last two matches

Peru’s World Cup dream came to a disappointing end on Thursday. They won plenty of new admirers with their enthusiastic style of play and energetic fans, but ultimately their record of no goals and no points from two games is all that matters when it comes down to it.

And yet, but for a bit of composure, it could all have been different. From Christian Cueva’s missed penalty against Denmark (not to mention the other 16 shots) to Pedro Aquino’s cannoned shot against the French upright, they had their chances to score at least once over the course of two games but just couldn’t put the ball in the net. Considering they narrowly lost both matches, that could have made all the difference.

They still have a part to play at these finals as they could kill off Australia’s hopes of progression, but they will always wonder what might have been here.

Peru's players at half time during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between France and Peru at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg on June 21, 2018. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)

_____

Pione Sisto must be allowed to share Christian Eriksen’s limelight

Eriksen is, for all intents and purposes, the leader of this Denmark side. The shining light, the creative hub, the biggest goal threat – the Tottenham man is seen as the facilitator of everything positive about this side. He’s already shown his worth to the team on the biggest stage with a goal and an assist at these finals, the latest contribution coming with a brilliant strike in the 1-1 draw against Australia on Thursday.

However, the contribution of left winger Pione Sisto shouldn’t go unnoticed. The Celta Vigo man is seen as the secondary dangerman in this Denmark side, and although Eriksen is the star of the show, Sisto made enough of an impact to warrant further attention, from the six dribbles, three shots and 92% passing accuracy. Denmark will need more than Eriksen to step up to secure a top-two finish and beyond – Sisto has gone some way to achieving that.

SAMARA, RUSSIA - JUNE 21: Joshua Risdon of Australia tackles Pione Sisto of Denmark during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group C match between Denmark and Australia at Samara Arena on June 21, 2018 in Samara, Russia. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

_____

Australia will fight to the very end

For the second match in a row, Australia found themselves a goal down only to claw their way level (with the help of VAR). How they came about the equaliser is a story for another time, all that really matters is that they were full value for the draw and, ultimately, a share of the points.

There’s a battling quality about this Australian team that has just about kept them in contention in this group. Their response to going down in both matches was a strong one, instantly taking the game to their opponents until they received their (again, VAR-assisted) rewards.

They face a very different task next week when they will be expected to take the game to Peru, the South Americans demoralised from their early elimination but still with plenty of pride to play for in front of the thousands of fans that followed them to Russia. Undergod qualities don’t really work when you’re the favourite, so it will be an interesting test for Bert van Marwijk’s side with a place in the last 16 still potentially on the line.

TOPSHOT - Australia's midfielder Mile Jedinak celebrates scoring from the penalty spot for Australia's first goal to equalise 1-1 during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between Denmark and Australia at the Samara Arena in Samara on June 21, 2018. (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

_____

About The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.