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YEKATERINBURG, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - France moved back above Denmark to the top of Group C with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Peru.

After their fortuitous 2-1 win over Australia in the opening game, France had hoped to make a statement in Ekaterinburg but struggled to impress once again.

Their winning goal came when Kylian Mbappé tapped in Olivier Giroud’s deflected shot, as the Paris Saint-Germain forward became the youngest Frenchman to score at a World Cup finals.

Peru pushed for an equaliser late on but ultimately could do little to avoid slipping to a second consecutive 1-0 defeat.

YEKATERINBURG, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - Thousands of red-shirted Peru supporters streamed through the streets of Yekaterinburg on Thursday, outnumbering France's by more than seven to one and looking to striker Paolo Guerrero to bring them an upset victory in their World Cup Group C clash.

Having lost 1-0 to Denmark in their first match, Peru's huge contingent of travelling fans is desperate for a win against one of the tournament favourites.

"It will be 3-0 to Peru because we have Guerrero," said Robert Amanqui Quispe.

Juan Carlos Rioja, from Lima, said he was confident of victory because of France's subdued performance in their first match against Australia, even though they won the game 2-1.

"What we expect is obviously to win. We expect France to play similar to their first game, which is not their best performance, so we can make it happen," he said.

Rainy Yekaterinburg produced one of its many June downpours less than three hours before kickoff, but rival fans engaged in a friendly competition to outchant each other as they headed across town on foot towards the stadium.

A spokeswoman for the city administration, Viktoria Mkrtchyan said fans had been arriving in Yekaterinburg throughout the day and authorities were expecting in total around 15 000 from Peru and 2 000 from France.

That compared with just over 6 500 Uruguayans and some 5 000 Egyptians for the first game in the city last week.

Many Peruvians had arrived without tickets and were expected to pack the fan zone, located away from the stadium in a city park, she said.

Appearing in the World Cup finals for the first time in 36 years, Peru has drawn phenomenal support despite its population of just 31 million and distance from the host country.

Fifa said before the tournament that 43 583 tickets had been sold to Peru fans, making them the seventh largest contingent from any country.

"We are really hopeful," said Peru fan Ivan Santanyana. "We must win the game today because you know what happened last game. We played really well, we missed a lot of chances and now there is no other thing to do. We need to win this."

MOSCOW, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - Neymar needs at least five matches to return to top form after a long injury layoff, but Brazil have not asked their talismanic forward to gamble on his fitness just to be improve their chances at the World Cup, coach Tite said on Thursday.

The five-times world champions drew their opening Group E game against Switzerland 1-1 and play their second match against Costa Rica in St Petersburg on Friday.

Neymar missed a chunk of the season with a fractured right foot and sprained ankle, but returned to play in Brazil's last two friendlies before the World Cup and started their first match of the tournament.

The 26-year-old has trained with the rest of the squad for two days in a row after sitting out Tuesday's session due to a sore ankle.

"It's about five matches, that's the minimum you need to be full on and he's already started the process," Tite told reporters. "There's evolution taking place, so don't worry.

"We want to win. It's a World Cup. But the coach is not going to risk a player's health or be dishonest to win. That's a price that is too high to pay."

The 57-year-old, known for his emphasis on the collective, also denied asking Neymar to curb his individual attacking instincts in order to serve the team better.

"It's not true. It didn't happen," he said. "All of the athletes have this responsibility of playing for the collective and also being individuals.

"I'm not going to take Neymar's initiative away from him. He is a genius... All of us have to help the team reach its potential but we have to respect individual characteristics. I'm not going to take that away from anybody."

Tite said he would name an unchanged starting line-up for the match against Costa Rica to give his players a chance to show their character and defended his policy of rotating captains through the tournament.

He also sprang to the defence of centre back Thiago Silva, who was heavily criticised during the last World Cup in Brazil but has been named skipper for Friday's match.

"If we took out everybody who was criticised in the last World Cup there would be nobody playing. We wouldn't even have a national team. And life and football are not like that," Tite said.

"There are a number of athletes who have the maturity and experience to take on the captaincy and Thiago is one of them."

SAINT PETERSBURG, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - Footballers have become icons of the modern age, their achievements used to formulate legends around them, similar to those created around the great kings and military men of days and years gone by.

With their heydays consigned to history, one of the only ways to admire those historical figures is by looking at great portraits painted and hung in museums - and now that privilege has been extended to some of the best footballers ever.

A new exhibition unveiled in Russia - currently host of the 2018 World Cup - has seen the likes of Mohamed (Mo) Salah, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Costa immortalised in paint and canvas, with a twist.

The art project has opened in the Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, featuring work by Italian artist Fabrizio Birimbelli.

The project, which opened on June 20 and will run throughout the remainder of the World Cup, presents a series of paintings of world football stars and coaches in historical uniforms, and includes more than 40 portraits.

The heads of Ronaldo, Messi and more are placed onto grand military uniforms, the sort usually seen in paintings of 18th century kings and generals.

There are several nods to the players portrayed however, in the uniforms they are painted in - Maradona has a blue and white armband, while Salah has the badge of the Egypt national team on his uniform.

Ronaldo has a medal designed to resemble the Real Madrid logo, while former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has the badge of the Red Devils large across his chest.

There is some artistic licence taken with some of the likenesses too - Costa and Jurgen Klopp are given flourishes to their facial hair, curled moustaches which do not really exist (but would be great to see in real life).

The portrait of Paul Pogba has the Manchester United and France midfielder with the tricolour flag represented in his hair. While Pogba is known for his exotic hairstyles, he has not yet chosen this ultra-patriotic design - but we wait to see what his stylist might come up with should Les Bleus progress deep into the World Cup.

MOSCOW, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - Over one million fans have attended games at the World Cup, organisers FIFA said in a statement on Thursday after Denmark's 1-1 draw with Australia, the 21st match of the tournament in Russia.

"To date, more than 2.6 million tickets have been allocated to football fans all around the world, with ticket sales ongoing until July 15. On average, World Cup stadium occupancy is at 97 percent and more than 70 000 tickets have been resold," added the statement.

The only glaring case of large numbers of empty seats was Uruguay's 1-0 win over Egypt in Yekaterinburg, where 6 000 tickets which had been allocated were left unused.

FIFA said that was due to "no shows" from constituent groups which include sponsors, member associations and supporters.

SAMARA, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - Australia forward Andrew Nabbout has been ruled out of the World Cup after sustaining a serious shoulder injury during the 1-1 draw with Denmark on Thursday, coach Bert van Marwijk said.

Nabbout grabbed at his shoulder after falling in a challenge and came off grimacing in the 74th minute of the Group C match in Samara.

"He has bad shoulder injury and his tournament is over," Dutchman Van Marwijk told a news conference.

With one point from their opening two games, Australia's chances of reaching the knockout rounds are on a knife edge, and they need victory against Peru in their final match to have any hope of advancing.

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