By KAREL JANICEK
YEKATERINBURG, Russia (AP) — With all its attacking talent, France proved it also has class in defense. Other coaches might envy Didier Deschamps, who has a forward line bursting with skill, speed and goals. But Peru coach Ricardo Gareca looked at the other end Thursday after his team lost 1-0. “I think France did some outstanding work of defense,” said Gareca, whose team was eliminated while the French advanced to the knockout stage.
“Credit needs to be given to France, it’s not that Peru fell short,” Gareca said. “Unlike their other games, France had very strong tactical discipline to neutralize Peru. Something that wasn’t visible in their other matches.” After Peru lost its opening game to Denmark 1-0, it needed a least a point against France to stay in contention following a 36-year absence from the tournament. With striker Paolo Guerrero back in the starting lineup, Peru’s players used any and every opportunity to put France under pressure. It didn’t work.
Deschamps made two tactical changes for the game, using Olivier Giroud and Blaise Matuidi in the starting line-up. The result upfront was visible. France was more fluid than in the 2-1 victory over Australia and the cooperation between midfielders Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kante with the attackers resulted in a number of scoring opportunities. But when Peru was on a desperate attack, they all were ready to help at the back. It was not just defenders Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Hernandez who were solid for the second straight game. “It doesn’t come only from the French defense,” Deschamps said. “The attacking players did what they had to do. They made an effort for the team to be compact, to work together.
It was very important to have very solid defense.” France neutralized Guerrero to a single chance in the first half. But goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who made his 100th international appearance, saved his low shot from close range. In the second half, France kept Peru at a distance, allowing mostly only long range attempts on goal. Even such an offensive ace as Kylian Mbappe, who scored the winning goal in the first half, came to help. “If the team needs it, you need to sacrifice yourself,” Mbappe said. “Today, sometimes we didn’t need to be up the field … this is what I did.”