Yekaterinburg: Teenager Kylian Mbappe became France’s youngest World Cup goalscorer at 19 years and 183 days as they beat Peru 1-0 here Thursday to reach the last 16 and condemn the South Americans to an early exit.
France, one of the pre-tournament favourites, join Uruguay and hosts Russia in the knockout rounds with one group game to go.
Some Peru fans were in tears even before kick-off – a generation of Peruvians has never seen their country in the World Cup before.
The South Americans’ last appearance was in 1982 and they made this like a home game, ensuring their red and white dominated the Yekaterinburg Arena. That included the two enormous temporary stands that stretch high above both ends, exposed to the elements, where Peru fans bobbed and bounced to keep warm.
Paul Pogba, the Manchester United midfielder who a few days ago called himself ‘the most criticised player in the world’, flashed a drive wide and defender Raphael Varane did likewise from a header.
With 15 minutes gone, Pogba and France began to impose themselves. Antoine Griezmann drove straight at goalkeeper Pedro Gallese after Olivier Giroud – starting in place of Ousmane Dembele – set up the Atletico Madrid forward.
Deschamps had clearly told his side, disappointing in beating Australia 2-1 in their opener, to go long and use Giroud’s physicality. And that is exactly what they did to catch the Peru defenders napping on a number of occasions.
Peru took until the half-hour to have their first serious chance, with recalled skipper Paolo Guerrero stinging the legs of Hugo Lloris. France captain Lloris, making his 100th appearance for his country, was a bystander for long periods.
On 34 minutes France went in front. Pogba cleverly played in Giroud, his shot took a deflection and looped over Gallese, allowing Mbappe to stab into an open net. New-found confidence ran through the French and Hernandez should have made it 2-0 just before the break. But with the rival goalkeeper at his mercy, Hernandez shot wide.
As in the first half, Peru made the better start to the second and midfielder Pedro Aquino arrowed a long-distance rocket onto Lloris’s upright.
But for all their possession, Peru – in their distinctive white kit with red sash – caused the French defence few problems. Barcelona centre-back Samuel Umtiti was imperious alongside Real Madrid’s Varane as the two central defenders for France and the Peruvian attackers really could not bother them. As a result they resorted to long distance shots, but were off target on most occasions.
Group C standings
Team M W D L GD Pts
France 2 2 0 0 2 6
Denmark 2 1 1 0 1 4
Australia 2 0 1 1 -1 1
Peru 2 0 0 2 -2 0