France v Peru: In defence of Didier Deschamps

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 21 June 2018, 07:56

Football management can be an unforgiving mistress at times: just ask Didier Deschamps.

When reports broke out on Tuesday that he is set to play box-to-box man Blaise Matuidi on the left side of midfield, his critics, most of whom deem him too defensive to nurture a promising generation of French talent, were quick to jump.

Others are entitled to their views, of course, but there might be a good reason for this change of system. To begin with, France’s pressing in the 2-1 win over Australia was almost non-existent.

The player starting on the left was Ousmane Dembele who, not only has an underwhelming international record, spent very little time helping in his own half. That wasn’t exclusively a problem against Australia but could be in Yekaterinberg due to the opposition.

Peru right-back Luis Advincula gets forward at every opportunity. He is quick, powerful, confident with both feet and was arguably one of the stand-out performers of the World Cup’s opening round of matches, despite being on the losing side.

Ahead of him is Andre Carrillo, who tore Denmark’s Stryger Larsen apart in the opener with his direct running and he, too, is capable of either attacking the flank or cutting inside for a shot.

If Deschamps were to ignore Advincula and Carrillo – and allow them to find two-on-one situations against suspect left-back Lucas Hernandez – France could get torn apart.

Luckily, they have a manager who is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and will pick starting elevens best suited to a system tailored to individual matches, rather than ones that might boost his popularity.

The 49-year-old is reportedly set to start Olivier Giroud who, unaffected by a recent head injury, made a huge difference when he came off the bench against Australia.

Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe are on paper two of the most talented forwards in the world, but they do not appear to have the work rate to press, the physical qualities to occupy defenders or the aerial prowess to give attacks a focal point.

Peru’s centre-backs – Alberto Rodriguez and Christian Ramos – often relish moving out into wide areas in the opening game and might have fancied their chances against a Griezmann, Mbappe and Dembele front three.

Given that the South Americans struggled to defend set pieces during their qualifying campaign however, Giroud could be a game-changer; the 31-year-old is 8/5 with SpreadEx to score anytime.

These tweaks could free up Griezmann to combine effectively with the Chelsea man, as he did so well in qualifying. The Atletico Madrid forward might be pleased that Peru’s Renato Tapia, who executed a largely impressive man-marking job on Christian Eriksen, is likely to miss out with concussion.

Instead, the responsibility of negating Griezmann may lie with Pedro Aquino, who along with Yoshimar Yotun must cover a lot of defensive ground.

La Blanquirroja should create chances at the other end though, so long as Paolo Guerrero starts. Gareca deployed Jefferson Farfan as a false nine against Denmark but, while they had periods of prominence in the first half, they didn’t quite have that focal point that enabled them to put early balls in the box.

Once Guerrero came on and occupied the opposing centre-backs, Peru dominated. There was more space for Christian Cueva, whose neat feat helped him to recover strongly from the earlier missed penalty and create two very presentable openings for Edison Flores.

A winger on paper, Flores spent more time in his own half than Advincula, perhaps keen to offer protection for Miguel Trauco, who is a reasonable technician but not the quickest.

Deschamps, therefore, perhaps sees Peru’s left-flank as a safer area to attack with Mbappe on the right wing and possibly Djibril Sidibe coming in at right-back, without the threat of having players caught out of position.

Opponents Peru have been one of the most entertaining teams to watch at the World Cup so far: they play with energy, zest, intent, national pride and a healthy dollop of skill, which is what Ricardo Gareca wants.

“We like the team to try to play, to try to generate.”

Gareca is a very likeable manager and has done an excellent job, but in key areas against Denmark, his side fell short.

They could not quite find that final touch of quality to finish off their exciting attacking moves and, given that they gave Poulsen too much space on the counter-attack to score the winner, naivety perhaps crept in.

Whatever happens in this tournament, Peru will win plenty of plaudits, but they need to be a little more streetwise to win points.

Prediction: 1-0 to France (23/4 with Unibet)

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Graham Westley
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