Fast, exciting and now the youngest scorer in France’s World Cup history.
Kylian Mbappe is the one.
At 19 years and 183 days, Mbappe became the youngest player to score for France’s national team on soccer’s biggest stage. And his reward was leading his squad into the round of 16 with a 1-0 victory over Peru on Thursday.
“I’ve always said that the World Cup is a dream for any player,” said Mbappe, who was born a few months after France won the 1998 title. “It is a dream come true and I hope I will have more like this.”
With two wins from two matches in Group C, France is through to the next round with a match to spare. Peru was eliminated.
Paul Pogba, one of France’s best players, set up the 34th-minute goal for Mbappe. Pogba beat his defender and passed to Olivier Giroud, who then chipped the ball toward goal for Mbappe to easily tap in past goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
France coach Didier Deschamps made a pair of tactical adjustments after an underwhelming performance in the team’s opening win over Australia. He put Giroud and Blaise Matuidi in the starting lineup but kept the same 4-3-2-1 formation with Giroud up front.
Both used their speed and passing to expose gaps in Peru’s backline.
Paolo Guerrero started for Peru after coming off the bench in the opening loss to Denmark. He came out with energy, but he cooled down after receiving a yellow card in the 23rd minute.
Guerrero nearly missed the World Cup before his doping ban was lifted by a Swiss judge prior to the tournament. France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was one of three opposing captains, along with Australia’s Mile Jedinak and Denmark’s Simon Kjaer, who signed a letter to FIFA supporting the lifting of the ban.
Guerrero had one of Peru’s best chances in the 87th minute from a free kick, but his attempt went right at Lloris.
“We gave it our best in two matches. We came into this match with a completely different set of expectations, but I have nothing to hold against my players,” Peru coach Ricardo Gareca said. “France is a hard team to harness. ... France corrected its style over the course of the game, this proves that France is a great side.”
Gareca said in both games his team’s ball control created opportunities, “but we couldn’t finish, we couldn’t score.”
The three-prong attack of Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele did little in the opening win over Australia, but the French trio was active Thursday in Yekaterinburg.
Griezmann had a pair of opportunities stopped within the first 15 minutes, and Mbappe and Dembele consistently got past Peru’s defense to set up scoring chances.
Peru was outshot 12-10, with only two of those chances on target. Two others were blocked.
Both teams play their final group stage matches on Tuesday. Peru will face Australia in Sochi while France takes on Denmark in Moscow.
KEY TO SUCCESS
Deschamps got a boost from Giroud and Matuidi in the match against Australia and wisely made the move to start them against Peru. The chemistry they found as substitutes carried over and it sharpened France’s attack.
Peru again showed why it is one of the most fun teams to watch at this year’s World Cup, using creativity to open spaces for scoring opportunities. But that constant motion ate up a lot of energy and hurt their control as the match progressed.
BACK IN ROUND 2
France has reached the knockout stages at back-to-back World Cups for the first time since 1982 and 1986. Les Bleus finished fourth and third at those tournaments, respectively.
Thursday marked the 100th international appearance for Lloris. The 31-year-old keeper first played for France’s national team in 2008 and has been a fixture ever since.
He also now has made 76 appearances wearing the captain’s armband.