Mbappé to the rescue as France survive US scare
Kylian Mbappé scored late to secure a 1-1 draw for France in their final match before the World Cup, a young USA side having taken the lead against the run of play and asking some serious of Les Bleus a week out form the World Cup.
Saturday, June 9, 2018
Groupama Stadium, Lyon
France 1 - 1 United States of America
Fresh from successive friendly wins over Ireland and Italy, Les Bleus were odds-on favourites to dispatch a young USA side at the very beginning of a new cycle - coach by interim boss Dave Sarachan - but Didier Deschamps' men got more than they bargained for in Lyon on Saturday night.
Although France hogged possession and created the lion's share of chances in the first half, with Paul Pogba hitting the post, Mbappé firing over and Griezmann sending his effort narrowly wide, it was the USA who took a shock lead. After Djibril Sidibé inadvertently played an incoming cross for Bobby Green, who conjured a first-time strike that nutmegged the France right-back and beat Hugo Lloris at his near post (44').
The shock in Lyon's Groupama Stadium - filled with France fans sending their side off to the World Cup in a party atmosphere - was palpable, as was the relief when Wood's second was ruled out for off-side just after the break (48'). France knew they had a job to do against a side proving opportunist up front and solid at the back - much as Australia will likely be in their World Cup opener, and Deschamps' men obliged as the second half played out.
Substitute and hometown hero Nabil Fekir of Olympique Lyonnais played a key role in France's fight-back, drawing three defenders and releasing fellow sub Benjamin Pavard down the right. The Stuttgart right-back cut inside and found Mbappé, who unleashed a low, angled first-time shot to finally beat the excellent Zach Steffen and get France back into the match (78').
Fekir subsequently went close with a free-kick (80') and USA 'keeper Zach Steffen pulled off a fine double save to deny sub Ousmane Dembélé (90'+4), and so the match ended 1-1, leaving France with a few tough questions to answer as they head to Russia on Sunday morning.
THE PLAYER: Kylian Mbappé
Despite starting just two of France's World Cup qualifiers, the 19-year-old superstar seems to be figuring prominently in Didier Deschamps' plans, and for good reason. The Paris Saint-Germain prodigy used his mercurial movement to steal half a yard in the area and slot home deftly to spare his side's blushes. He will doubtless play a key role in Russia, breaking down teams looking to counter France's attacking verve by getting 11 men behind the ball.
THE STAT: 13
Les Bleus have hit the woodwork no fewer than 13 times in their last 12 matches. On Saturday it was Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann who found the frame when a touch more precision - or better fortune - would have put them in a comfortable position to get a positive result. Certainly something Deschamps will look to work on before Les Bleus' World Cup campaign kicks off against Australia in Kazan on Saturday, June 16.