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."
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."
SARANSK, Russia, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - Striker Paolo Guerrero played only for 30 minutes in Peru's 1-0 opening World Cup loss to Denmark, but his impressive form after a long doping ban already indicates he'll likely play a bigger role in his country's next match against France.
Coach Ricardo Gareca kept Guerrero on the bench at the start of the game in Saransk, which upset tens of thousands of fans who showed up at the 44,000-seater Mordovia Arena. He waited an hour, until after Peru had wasted several opportunities - including one from the penalty spot - to send on the team's all-time leading scorer.
A Guerrero header two minutes later forced Denmark's Kasper Schmeichel into a save. Three minutes later the 34-year-old Guerrero, who played only a handful of games this year, almost equalized for Peru with a clever backheel kick.
Overall, his presence gave Peru more structure in attack and had the other benefit for his team of drawing Denmark's defense, creating opportunities for Yoshimar Yotun in the middle.
"I saw him doing well. He adapted to the atmosphere of the game quickly," Gareca said in his post-match news conference.
Peru faces France on Thursday in a potentially decisive match in Pool C, and that puts Guerrero right into the frame to start.
"What we need now is to analyze the match against France and pick the best settings," Gareca said. "We need to digest this defeat and deal with France as quickly as possible."
Veteran Peru player Jefferson Farfan, who played up front on Saturday, suggested his close friend deserved to be in the starting lineup for the next game.
"We have to think of France, forget this match and start from scratch," Farfan said.
"Guerrero once more proved he is key for this group of players."
Guererro was Peru's top goal scorer in South American World Cup qualifying, netting five in the campaign. But he has played few games since FIFA's initial suspension in November.
He blamed his doping test failure on a tainted cup of tea at a Lima hotel.
The veteran striker didn't have any qualms about being kept on the bench for Peru's first match, saying he "respects the decision of the professor."
"Whenever he needs me, I will be ready. The next match will be tough, but we have the means to win it," Guererro said.
The victory gave Denmark a crucial advantage over Peru in Group C after France edged Australia 2-1 earlier in the day.
SARANSK, Russia, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - Yussuf Poulsen bounced back from conceding a penalty to score the goal that gave Denmark a hard-fought 1-0 win in their World Cup Group C clash against a Peru side who were left to rue Christian Cueva's costly spot-kick miss in the first half.
Peru started the brighter of the two sides, keeping Danish danger man Christian Eriksen under wraps for much of the first half, and they should have gone ahead just before the break when Cueva was tripped in the box by Poulsen.
Referee Bakary Gassama consulted with the VAR (video assistant referee) system before awarding the penalty but Cueva, whose nickname is "Aladdin", sent the spot kick on a magic carpet ride high over the bar.
Poulsen punished that miss in the 59th minute as Eriksen sucked in two defenders before playing him in to score what turned out to be the only goal of a pulsating, high-tempo match, despite Peru going close on several occasions late on.
ZURICH, June 4, 2018 (News Wires) - Midfielder Sergio Pena was the unlucky player to miss out as Peru finalised their 23-man squad for the World Cup on Monday.
Pena was forced to make way for captain Paolo Guerrero, who has been freed to take part at the tournament after the Swiss Federal Tribunal agreed to temporarily lift a 14-month doping ban pending an appeal.
Guerrero, who tested positive for a cocaine byproduct contained in a tea and which he said he ingested unknowingly, was freed to take part on Thursday and scored twice in the 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia yesterday.
Peru, making their first appearance at the World Cup since 1982, face Denmark, France and Australia in their group.
“This is the most difficult moment of my career and I feel I did not do enough to take part in the best competition in the world and represent my country as well as possible,” Pena said on Instagram.
“Tomorrow, I will wake up with more strength than ever and continue what I love doing,” added the 22-year-old, who plays for Spanish second division side Granada.
Goalkeepers: Pedro Gallese (Veracruz), Carlos Caceda (Deportivo Municipal), Jose Carvallo (UTC).
Defenders: Aldo Corzo (Universitario), Luis Advincula (Lobos Buap), Christian Ramos (Veracruz), Miguel Araujo (Alianza Lima), Alberto Rodriguez (Atletico Junior), Anderson Santamaria (Puebla), Miguel Trauco (Flamengo), Nilson Loyola (Melgar).
Midfielders: Renato Tapia (Feyenoord), Pedro Aquino (Lobos Buap), Yoshimar Yotun (Orlando City), Paolo Hurtado (Vitoria Guimaraes), Christian Cueva (Sao Paulo), Edison Flores (Aalborg), Andy Polo (Portland Timbers), Wilder Cartagena (Veracruz).
Forwards: Andre Carrillo (Watford), Raul Ruidiaz (Morelia), Jefferson Farfan (Lokomotiv Moscow), Paolo Guerrero (Flamengo).