France fade to Colombia defeat
By D. Crossan
France allowed a two-goal lead to slip at the Stade de France as they lost 3-2 to Colombia in a friendly that launched the run-in to the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Friday, March 23, 2018
Stade de France, Saint-Denis
France 2-3 Colombia
France, lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with Paul Pogba left on the bench, impressed from the off with their skill and movement. Les Bleus were finding it particularly easy to find space out wide and they duly opened the scoring (11') with a delightful goal. Thomas Lemar, operating on the left, dropped deep to play a defence-splitting pass to marauding full-back Lucas Digne. The Barcelona man's low cross was spilled by former Nice goalkeeper David Ospina and Olivier Giroud snapped up the chance, firing high into the net from close range.
The second goal (26') was even better. Djibril Sidibé launched the counter and then Antoine Griezmann backheeled the ball Kylian Mbappé's way. A clever feint from the PSG forward allowed him to play in former Monaco team-mate Lemar, whose diagonal finish was accomplished as he netted his second international goal, following up on a wonder strike against the Dutch last August.
It was a shock (28') when Colombia pulled one back. Sevilla forward Luis Muriel crossed from the left and with Hugo Lloris expecting a touch from Spurs team-mate Davinson Sanchez the ball lodged in the corner of the net. France could have gone in at the half with an even bigger lead but Ospina made himself big to deny Griezmann.
Ten minutes into the second half Lloris made a great save to deny Muriel after a Raphaël Varane mistake as the visitors - quarter-finalists at the last World Cup - got on top. Given the way the game was going it was no surprise when Monaco's Radamel Falcao equalised (62') as he was left completely unmarked to turn in a cross from the right.
Sub Pogba had a crack (73') and soon after Sevilla striker Wissam Ben Yedder came on for Giroud for his debut. Didier Deschamps' side were undone (85') when Samuel Umtiti gave away a penalty for a foul on José Izquierdo and James Rodriguez gave Lloris no chance from the spot. France now head to St-Petersburg to take on World Cup hosts Russia on Tuesday. The Russians were beaten 3-0 at home by Brazil on Friday evening.
THE PLAYER: Thomas Lemar
Frequently used in the number 10 role at club level by Leonardo Jardim, Lemar reprised the wide playmaking role he filled to such great effect as Monaco both won Ligue 1 Conforama last season and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. The 22-year-old caught the eye with his skill, nous and eye for goal.
THE STAT: 9
Olivier Giroud has scored nine goals in his last nine international starts and the Chelsea forward has now managed an impressive 30 goals in 70 appearances for his country. He moved level on the scoring list with Just Fontaine and Jean-Pierre Papin. Zinedine Zidane scored 31 for France.