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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 20, 2018 (News Wires) - French striker Antoine Griezmann has been passed fit for Thursday's World Cup Group C match with Peru as coach Didier Deschamps seeks to give his side a sharper attacking edge.

France, among the tournament favourites, opened with a sluggish 2-1 win over Australia.

"What we can see is that there were elements that were lacking and we did have difficulties at the front. That is very clear, and I did say so at the end of the match," Deschamps told reporters on the eve of the game in Yekaterinburg.

"The aim here is to make sure we do better tomorrow."

Deschamps said Griezmann, who opened the scoring with a penalty against Australia, was fully fit.

"He's well. There was a little concern with one of his ankles, which was a little bit swollen after the match. He wasn't at this best during the match, he had heavy legs," said the coach.

Dynamic midfielder N'Golo Kante also struggled in the first game: "This meant we weren't able to have enough dynamism in attack, and not enough efficiency."

Deschamps did not rule out starting with Olivier Giroud, even if his comments on the striker were ambivalent.

"The problem with Olivier is very often when he plays, he plays in his own register, he's not in the same register as the others. But when he's not there, we realise how useful he is," Deschamps said.

The 49-year-old, a member of France's 1998 World Cup winning team, said Peru should not be underestimated.

"They have excellent players up front, they have some very fast players," he said, singling out Paolo Guerrero and Jefferson Farfan.

BERLIN, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - The leaders of Germany and France agreed Tuesday to create a Eurozone budget they hope will boost investment and provide a safety mechanism for the 19 nations using the euro currency, and also to seek a European solution to migration issues.

The announcement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron came after a meeting in Berlin to coordinate the two major powers' positions on the future of the European Union ahead of next week's EU summit.

Though Merkel had been lukewarm on Macron's idea of a European budget, in a declaration adopted by both leaders following the meeting they said they had agreed upon a proposal to establish one aimed at "competitiveness and convergence."

"It could finance new investments and come in substitution of national spending," they said.

Merkel said the two also agreed to enhance the effectiveness of the European Stability Mechanism, or ESM, which was established in 2012 to provide eurozone nations access to financial assistance in the event of crisis.

"We are opening a new chapter," she said.

Macron said details were intentionally being kept general on the budget idea at the moment, so that other member nations would be able to have their voices heard. He said the idea is for the budget to be in place by 2021 as a "backstop to ensure financial stability."

On migration, Merkel's insistence on finding common European solutions to reducing migrant numbers and other issues has met stiff resistance in her own conservative bloc, leading to a showdown over the last week with her interior minister who has insisted some categories of migrants should be turned away at Germany's borders.

On Monday, a potential crisis was averted after Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and his Bavaria-only Christian Social Union agreed to give Merkel two weeks to make deals with other European countries on migrants - specifically after the upcoming EU summit.

In their joint declaration, the leaders cautioned that "if member states started to act unilaterally, this would end up in an overall increase of migration into Europe."

Merkel told reporters she was still convinced that Europe needed to work together to combat the causes of the refugee flow by helping improve conditions in the countries of origin while at the same time increasing security at Europe's outer borders and cracking down on smugglers.

"Our goal remains a European answer to these challenges," she said.

Macron agreed to the need for "a European response to the challenge of migration," saying Europe must have "more capacity" to monitor its external borders but also more "solidarity mechanisms both outside and inside our borders" faced with migrant arrivals.

Both leaders said they wanted to increase personnel at Frontex, Europe's border security agency.

"We want more sovereignty and unity," Macron said. "We're at a moment of truth in Europe."

PARIS, June 19, 2018 (MENA) - The French government has frozen the assets of controversial Swiss-Islamic scholar Hani Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna as part of the authorities' efforts to combat terrorist financing, Swiss Info reported.

According to the decree that was published on Sunday in the official French government bulletin and reported on Tuesday by the Lyon Capitale magazine, his assets have been frozen for six months.

This is within the framework of an article of the Monetary and Financial Code targeting “natural or legal persons, or any other entity that commits, attempts to commit, facilitates, finances, incites or participates in acts of terrorism”.

France deported Hani Ramadan to Switzerland in April, 2017. The French Interior Ministry said that Hani Ramadan had “in the past adopted behavior and made remarks posing a serious threat to public order on French soil”.

He has two months to contest the freezing of his assets, said the decree, made jointly by the economy, finance and interior ministries.

Ramadan’s name was one of 17 on list of foreign nationals sentenced for or suspected of having links to a terrorist organisation or of carrying out propaganda for such an organisation.

Hani Ramadan is the brother of Tarek, a controversial Islamic scholar who is held in custody in France for allegedly raping several women. He has formally contested the charges.

YEKATERINBURG, Russia, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - The pre-tournament favorites at this World Cup have struggled so far. France is no exception - but at least it has a win. Les Bleus, who are seventh in the FIFA world rankings, got past Australia 2-1 in their opener despite a mostly lackluster effort from their trio of elite strikers.

France benefited from some good fortune. Its first goal came after a penalty called with the aid of video review. Then it scored again on a fluky goal that was found by goal-line technology to have crossed the line and was later determined to have been last touched by an Australian player.

France was one of only two teams ranked in FIFA's top seven to win its opening match. The other was Belgium.

A win Thursday night against Peru at Yekaterinburg Arena would put France in position to wrap up a second consecutive appearance in the round of 16.

The Peruvians held a 17-10 advantage in shots on goal but failed to capitalize on their chances during a 1-0 loss to Denmark . Peru's task could be even harder against Group C favorite France, which it will be facing for the first time in World Cup play.

The only previous meeting between the teams was a 1982 friendly that Peru won 1-0.

France's top attackers - Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele - were underwhelming against Australia.

France outshot its opponent 12-6. Griezmann had five of those attempts, Mbappe had one and Dembele played 70 minutes without a shot on goal. Griezmann's goal came after a penalty, the byproduct of a video assistant referee review of a foul on the sideline.

The other goal was initially credited to Paul Pogba before a panel of former coaches and players determined it actually came off a touch by Australia's Aziz Behich.

France can't count on such good fortune against a disciplined Peru defense, and coach Didier Deschamps didn't rule out tweaking his lineup.

"I will have 11 (players) against Peru," Deschamps said. "It may be the same, it may be different ones, but those three attacking players played as they should play. I have a good group. Each of them has his say among the 23 players."

One of the key questions for Peru will be how coach Ricardo Gareca uses the country's all-time leading scorer, Paolo Guerrero.

After having a doping ban lifted just before the start of the tournament, the 34-year-old striker came on as a substitute against Denmark and played well in about 30 minutes of action. He almost scored twice, the last time using his unique skill set to nearly create what would have been an equalizing goal.

It's the kind of effort that could prompt Gareca to return Guerrero to a starting role for this match, which will determine whether Peru has a chance of advancing to the second round for the first time since 1978.

Peru brought one of the largest contingents of fans to Russia. Tens of thousands are following the Incas during their first World Cup appearance in 36 years.

They were loud throughout Peru's opener at Mordovia Arena in Saransk, at times drowning out their Danish counterparts.

That support could be a factor in trying to rattle France's stars. Deschamps said the fans reminded him of Colombia's supporters during friendly in Paris that Colombia won 3-2.

"Thirty thousand Peruvians came to Moscow, so they are very excited and enthusiastic," Deschamps said. "We played Colombia in March and we saw that they are not only aggressive, but they have very good players."

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