N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud featured for France as they qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup courtesy of a 1-0 win over Peru.
The Chelsea duo performed well as Didier Deschamps’s side recorded a second straight win at the World Cup having beaten Australia 2-1 in their opening fixture.
After coming off the bench at the weekend, Giroud was named in the starting line-up and played as the focal point of the France attack, supported by Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Blaise Matuidi, who was also brought into the side. Kante, meanwhile, was paired with Paul Pogba as the two deep-lying midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 system.
Giroud’s impact on the team was evident from very early on as the quality of his hold-up play allowed his team-mates to get forward in support, and the manner of the way in which he linked up with Griezmann was particularly impressive, the Atletico Madrid forward profiting from his clever flick-ons and all-round intelligence.
Kante, as ever, was a constant source of energy and invention as he patrolled the France midfield, breaking up play when necessary and using the ball intelligently when in possession.
Griezmann passed up a decent opportunity to open the scoring for France early on when he fired wide from a good position, and just after the half-hour mark Peru should have taken the lead when striker Paolo Guerrero, who had worked himself into a good position, was denied by the feet of France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Having headed over the bar moments earlier, Giroud was then heavily involved as the deadlock was broken 11 minutes before half-time. Peru attempted to play their way out of trouble but as France won it back, Pogba slipped in Giroud, whose first time strike deflected up and over the goalkeeper, leaving Mbappe with the simple task of tapping into an empty net. The 19-year-old Monaco striker became the youngest player to score for France at a World Cup.
Peru, backed by huge support inside the Ekaterinburg Arena, were almost level five minutes into the second half when Pedro Aquino Sanchez struck the outside of the post with a stunning long-range strike and they continued to cause France problems.
Deschamps’s side were struggling to create any clear-cut opportunities to extend their advantage, meaning Giroud’s impact on proceedings in the second half was limited, but the Chelsea striker continued to work hard for his team and press from the front.
Four minutes of added time were signalled at the end of the game, in which Giroud went close again, only to see his left-footed strike deflected behind at the end of a marauding run, but France held on for the victory and qualify for the knockout rounds with a game to spare.
Victory against Andreas Christensen’s Denmark in their final group game next Tuesday will ensure they go through as group winners.