YEKATERINBURG, Russia — Thirty-six years is a long time to wait to be eliminated from the World Cup without scoring a goal. It was surely not the expectation of the tens of thousands of Peruvian fans who brought their banners, their inflatable llamas ...
France will continue on; after winning its first two matches, it has six points and is guaranteed of a spot in the round of 16 even before facing Denmark next week to determine who finishes first in Group C.
Peru, which fell to Denmark by the same score on Saturday, will play Australia for pride on Tuesday in Sochi, although one suspects there will still be no shortage of support on the shores of the Black Sea.
“I think Peru deserved more than to go out like this,” said Hugo Lloris, the French captain and goalkeeper. “They are a really good team. They were unlucky in the first match against Denmark. I think they deserved more from that. They had lots of opportunities, but Kasper Schmeichel played a great match in goal and now sadly, they are eliminated.”
Though Yekaterinburg is a great deal closer to Paris, it felt as if Peru were playing at home: with the national team’s red and white colors the dominant ones in the stands, both permanent and temporary, in Yekaterinburg Arena.
“Our fans, the people were incredible,” said Ricardo Gareca, Peru’s coach. “It is something that brings me joy and also pain. It hurts that we are eliminated and don’t have the chance to give them something more for all their support, all their expectations.”
Yekaterinburg lies east of the Ural Mountains that divide Europe from Asia, and the Peruvians arrived by 14-hour train rides, by multiday road trips and even on a red-eye flight from Kazan that landed in Yekaterinburg shortly before 5 a.m. on Thursday, which was not too early for the fans to bang drums and sing odes to their national team as they waited for their baggage to come off the carousel.
Despite the intermittent rain, the Peruvians kept up the pace and the volume throughout the afternoon as they converged on the stadium, and then they joined together again for a full-throated rendition of Peru’s national anthem — a scene so full of national pride that even the French players said they were moved.
Credit Laurence Griffiths/Getty ImagesPhoto
Peru supporters during the team’s loss to France. Credit Cris Bouroncle/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images“In the warm-ups, we had the impression we were playing in South America,” Lloris said. “The atmosphere was fantastic, and you have to really emphasize that: all these people from Peru who came all the way here. And even if it made the job harder for us, it was a great atmosphere to play in, even for those of us on the French team. I honestly can’t say I remember playing in an ambience like this, and I’ve played in 100 matches for France.”
Like Schmeichel on Saturday, Lloris certainly played his part in spoiling Peru’s moment. He was excellent when needed most, making a crucial save in the 31st minute on a low, hard shot from Peru’s star forward Paolo Guerrero.
It was captain versus captain, and Lloris prevailed at close range on a night and in a World Cup when defense has often prevailed. Of the 23 matches so far, 11 have finished by the score of 1-0, and this one might have finished 1-1 if Pedro Aquino’s screamer of a shot in the 53d minute had been a few centimeters to the right instead of striking the upper left corner of the French crossbar.
“If you want us to win, 5-0, against everyone, you shouldn’t come,” said Didier Deschamps, the France coach. “It’s the World Cup. It’s complicated for everyone. We defended well but the problem was that when we recovered the ball we often lost it again, and so we had to go back to defending again. But this was also due to the pressure of Peru.”
Still, France, stocked with goal-scoring talent, look like a sports car struggling to shift into higher gears. Deschamps shuffled his lineup yet again on Thursday, returning the veteran forward Olivier Giroud and midfielder Blaise Matuidi to the starting lineup in place of the 21-year-old Ousmane Dembélé and the 23-year-old Corentin Tolisso and opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation.
But Deschamps left his teenage striker, Kylian Mbappé in place, and it was Mbappé who scored the lone French goal in the 34th minute.
Paul Pogba provided the initial spark and found Giroud, whose shot was deflected by Peru defender Alberto Rodriguez and sent soaring over goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. It landed directly in the path of Mbappé, who turned the falling ball into the net with his right foot.
It was a moment to savor for Mbappé, the fleet forward for Paris Saint-Germain, who is now the youngest goal scorer in World Cup history for France at 19 years 183 days. But it was also a reaffirming evening for Giroud at center forward, where he was often effective, particularly in the short passing game.
“He’s often been there for us,” Deschamps said. “He’s our best scorer, with his specific strengths and characteristics, in his ability to provide support and quick shifts. He was very good today even if he did not succeed at everything he tried.”
But even if the French have not been taking this World Cup by storm, they are still very much in contention in this World Cup.
The Peruvians can no longer say the same, and after the final whistle on Thursday, Guerrero, who had fought and won a legal battle to play here after testing positive for a metabolite of cocaine, burst into tears. Devastated, he covered his face with his jersey for several minutes as players like Matuidi and his Peru teammates tried to console him.
“I think all my teammates are sad,” Guerrero said. “But we left our souls on the field, and I feel proud about that. I can only thank all the Peruvian fans that are always behind us and all those who made the effort to come all this way to Russia.”
Here’s how France eliminated Peru, from Victor Mather:
93’: Peru’s Last Chance?
A very long free kick for Peru is lobbed into the box and its Guerrero again who gets a head to it. But it goes well wide.
90’: Four More Minutes
Nzonzi in for Pogba as France kills another minute. Four minutes of injury time to come.
87’: Guerrero Free Kick!
Farfan takes a blow to the face from the back of Varane’s hand and wins a free kick for Peru. It’s Guerrero, the captain who needed the Court of Arbitration for Sport to play here. The wall is formed. Tense moments. Guerrero ... clears the wall, but it’s right to keeper Lloris.
85’: Peru Running Out of Chances
Corner for Peru is cleared. There will only be so many more chances.
Griezmann out, Fekir in for France. Dembele follows by hooking a shot wide.
80’: France Winding Down the Clock
France is definitely in clock-watching mode, passing deliberately and even wasting time at the corner already. Though Peru hasn’t finished at this tournament, they have gotten the ball into scary spots, and France has noticed.
75’: Peru Chance
Carrillo is free on the wing, but the angle is too tight and he crosses. Farfan lunges and gets a foot on it the other side of goal, but his angle is even tighter and it hits the side netting.
74’: Peru Has Heart, But Still No Goals
Peru battled Denmark every step of the way and are doing the same to France here. But their ledger still shows 0 points and 0 goals. They need that big finish, and soon.
69’: Another Peru Chance!
As Peru starts to set up another attack, Advincula bets his man outside the box and fires. It whistles just over the bar.
Rory Smith: Peru has had France pinned back for about 10 or 15 minutes now, and the French don’t seem quite able to reassert control. Which, given the players they have on the pitch, is ... less than ideal.
66’: More Pressure From Peru
Cueva launches another Peru move. It would be a shame if his Cup is remembered only for that penalty howler in Game 1. Peru needs a goal soon to prevent that.
Peru’s Paolo Guerrero, right, and France’s Benjamin Pavard in action during their World Cup match on Thursday. Credit Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press62’: Peru Fighting Back
Advincula on the baseline for Peru. Scary for a second for France, but his cross is cleared. Moments later Farfan does the same. Finally Carrillo blasts one over the bar.
At the other end, Carrillo goes down in the penalty box, but he was barely touched and he can’t sell it.
58’: Chance for France
Young Mbappe beats a defender, polishing his man of the match credentials. Matuidi’s shot is saved.
57’: France in Control
France is mostly keeping the ball in Peru’s end. That’s obviously not good for Peru. A free kick, a corner. No goals but none surrendered either.
51’: Peru Chance!
Good sequence leads to Aquino of Peru launching a rocket from distance. It hits the corner of the goal woodwork!
47’: Second Half Kicks Off
Peru will make two changes at halftime to try to turn the tide here. Striker Jefferson Farfan and defender Anderson Santamaria check in.
France’s Kylian Mbappe scored his team’s first goal against Peru during their World Cup match on Thursday. Credit Shaun Botterill/Getty ImagesHalftime
France has a foot in the second round, and Peru has a foot out the door. Goal scoreer Kylian Mbappe is 19 years old. We just might be seeing him in World Cups for quadrennia to come.
44’: Almost Another One for France
A series of passes eventually finds Lucas Hernandez just outside the area. His powerful shot is batted away by keeper Gallese of Peru.
41’: Fans Still Behind Peru
Peru’s fans are roaring for their team, as they have done all Cup long. Definitely a candidate for fans of the tournament, enjoying a return after 36 years.
39’: What Happens If France Wins
A France win here would be enough for it to advance and would eliminate Peru. It also probably would mean that Denmark would advance, although Australia would still be alive.
35’: GOAL FRANCE!
The move started with a steal, then Giroud poked it toward goal. It might have gone in anyway, but Mbappe was racing in unmarked and slammed it in to be sure.
Andrew Das: Terrible break for Peru there, as the deflection popped the ball up and over Gallese, who was dead to rights with Mbappé closing fast. Peru’s fans don’t bat an eye though; they’re urging their side on with everything they have.
32’: Great Chance for Peru
But he was tested there! The penalty goat of the last game, Cueva, splits the defense and gets it to captain Guerrero with the goal at his mercy! Lloris is down to save. Great chance for Peru.
29’: Peru on the Offensive
Peru is attacking with verve, uncowed by France’s star-studded lineup. The moves are mostly ending with giveaways or blocked shots though. Keeper Lloris has not been tested.
24’: Yellow for Peru’s Guerrero
A yellow card for Paolo Guerrero, the veteran Peru captain who nearly didn’t make the World Cup over a suspension.
17’: Peru On Its Heels
Mbappe to Giroud, who backheels it back to him. He’s pulled down, but there is no call. Then Griezmann gets a point blank shot saved. Nightmares for Peru’s defense.
15’: More Chances for France
Varane gets a header off the corner and it goes barely wide. That was a good chance. France is really threatening.
Andrew Das: Peru is really fighting for its life right now. France’s speed is a real problem, but so is Pogba, who just lashed a shot wide, and Varane in the air (he just nodded a header wide on a corner). Peru really needs a bit of possession, if only so France doesn’t have any more of it while they catch their breath.
Peru’s Edison Flores attempted a shot on goal during Thursday’s World Cup match with France. Credit Mark Baker/Associated Press12’: France Keeping Pressure On
Pogba tries a rocket from distance. A clear miss for mere mortals; he manages to barely put it wide.
11’: Chance for France
Griezman is free and charging toward net for France from a tight angle; his shot goes wide though.
10’: Chance for Peru
Great work on the wing by Carillo of Peru ends with him beating two men and getting off the cross. Unfortunately it loops too high and out of the area.
5’: France’s Defense Strong Early
Peru start brightly, but the France defense is up to the challenge and no shot is taken.
France in dark blue, Peru in white with a red stripe. France’s lineup includes a murderer’s row of talent: Giroud, Griezmann, Matuidi, Pogba, Kante. The team underachieved in beating Australia, 2-1, with the help of the video referee. Perhaps today’s the day France puts it all together.
Andrew Das: A reminder that Denmark’s draw with Australia earlier today means Peru will be eliminated with a loss to France in this match. A victory would give France six points, and Denmark already has four. If Peru loses, they can only gain three from their final group game, and that won’t do. It would be monumental disappointment for the Peruvians, who returned to the World Cup this year for the first time since 1982, and can’t know when they’ll be back. Which makes this among the more important moments in the country’s recent soccer history.
World Cup 2018 (Soccer)