Mbappe seals France progress as enthusiastic Peru show limitations
EKATERINBURG, Russia -- Three thoughts on France's 1-0 win vs. Peru in Group C at the World Cup.
1. France labour but secure knockout-round progress
France joined Russia and Uruguay in securing a place in the World Cup second round, but it took a Kylian Mbappe strike in the first half to seal another unconvincing victory for the 1998 champions.
Mbappe was already his country's youngest-ever player at a major tournament and became its youngest World Cup scorer with his 34th-minute goal, which saw him tap in from close range after Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese had half-blocked Olivier Giroud's shot.
The goal was made possible by Paul Pogba, who dispossessed Paolo Guerrero 20 yards outside the Peru penalty area before releasing Giroud to shoot.
Although the French went close later in the opening period through full-back Lucas Hernandez, Didier Deschamps' team laboured to the win in similar fashion to their hard-fought opening victory against Australia.
France need to draw their final group game against Denmark next Tuesday to be certain of topping Group C, but with Argentina or Croatia a potential opponent in the next round, Les Bleus will need to raise their game to be certain of advancing further in Russia.
Their win ended Peru's hopes of progressing beyond the group. Backed by more than 25,000 fans in Ekaterinburg, the South Americans struggled to test goalkeeper Hugo Lloris on his 100th appearance for France.
Guerrero saw a first-half shot saved, while Pedro Aquino struck the outside of the post early in the second. In truth, though, France rarely looked like they would surrender their lead, despite being short of ideas when it came to adding to the scoreline.
2. Mbappe and Giroud vindicate Deschamps' selection
Giroud forced Deschamps into making a selection decision for this game after he had such an impact as a substitute in the 2-1 win against Australia.
After starting with Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele against the Socceroos, Deschamps simply had to hand the Chelsea striker a place in the team against Peru, so one of the most exciting strikers in world football would have to be dropped. Both Dembele and Mbappe possess blistering pace and the ability to decide a game, but when push came to shove Deschamps chose to stick with the teenager.
It was the right call, not only because Mbappe surpassed David Trezeguet as France's youngest World Cup goal scorer at 19 years and 183 days, but because the Paris Saint-Germain youngster tormented Peru down the right flank and worked well with Giroud.
Mbappe makes things happen and is also prepared to try the spectacular. His attempt at a back-heeled flick in the first half was the wrong decision at the wrong time, but he shrugged it off by scoring moments later after racing onto Giroud's effort and delivering the crucial final touch.
As good as Dembele is, Mbappe just seems to have the edge in terms of maturity. Deschamps may change things again as the tournament progresses, but the Giroud-Mbappe combination is one that will trouble any opponent.
3. Peru offer plenty but lack finishing touch
After a 36-year wait to return to the World Cup, Peru's Russian adventure will come to an end with their final group game against Australia next week.
If points were awarded for a nation's fans, they would have coasted into the knockout stage as group winners thanks to the incredible travelling support they have mustered; Peruvians have been everywhere and this fixture was like a home game in Lima, such were the number of flags, shirts and banners on display.
But on the pitch, as tenacious and hungry as Ricardo Gareca's team have been, Peru are simply not equipped to win against superior sides at this level. Physically, France were stronger and fitter and it showed on countless occasions -- especially 50-50 challenges and aerial battles.
Peru have not won a game at a World Cup since 1978, having failed to win any of their three outings in 1982, so perhaps their record of two defeats so far is no surprise. But when they say farewell in Sochi next Tuesday, the least their travelling army of fans deserve is a goal to cheer.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_