France v Peru
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EKATERINBURG • With their title rivals failing to fire, France have vowed to ramp up the intensity and put their stamp on the World Cup with victory over Peru today.
Didier Deschamps' team were far from fluid against Australia in their opening game in Russia, needing the video assistant referee (VAR) and the consequent Antoine Griezmann penalty, then an own goal about 10 minutes from time, to snatch a 2-1 win.
But, while unconvincing, a French side at least avoided embarrassment. With holders Germany losing to Mexico and Spain, Argentina and Brazil all drawing their opening games, the Peru clash is a prime opportunity for the French to stake their claim as the team to beat in Russia.
"We took stock of what was done well or not so well and all agree that we will have to increase our physical intensity and improve our attitude in general," said France vice-captain Raphael Varane.
"Other teams (among the favourites) did not win or even lost. We won, but we know that there are things to improve on. We know what direction we need to go in."
Deschamps has an impressive selection of forwards to choose from and is expected to give Olivier Giroud a start at the expense of Ousmane Dembele as he switches from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 formation.
Giroud is set to partner Antoine Griezmann up front while Kylian Mbappe joins the midfield.
A LONG WAY TO GO
Other teams (among the favourites) did not win or even lost. We won, but we know that there are things to improve on. We know what direction we need to go in.
RAPHAEL VARANE, France defender, knows he has to be wary despite his team being in a better position compared to rivals who lost or drew their openers.
Blaise Matuidi, who instantly brought steel to the midfield when he replaced Corentin Tolisso in the opening match, is likely to get the nod over the Bayern Munich man.
Varane added: "We know that they're an opponent who will put a lot of intensity on everything they do. We will need to be aggressive and solid."
Peru will have to take risks as they seek their first win in Russia and that strategy could give France some space to hit them on the break, using the pace of Mbappe and Griezmann.
Peru will rely heavily on their all-time leading scorer Paolo Guerrero, who was a substitute in their 1-0 defeat by Denmark.
The 34-year-old, whose doping ban was frozen just before the World Cup, is a likely starter after he impressed with his footwork when he came off the bench in Peru's opening match.
Peru beat France 1-0 in their only meeting in a friendly in 1982, and Les Bleus have won just four of their last 12 World Cup matches against Latin American teams.
"I don't think France like to play against South American teams," said Peru full-back Miguel Trauco.
"With our style of play, our way to hold the ball, I think we can cause them trouble."
Peru had put Denmark under pressure for much of the game in Saransk but the Danes head to Samara knowing a win over Australia will put them in the driving seat to qualify from Group C.
Australia coach Bert van Marwijk is ready for different challenge.
"They are a physically strong team, very tall players, that's their weapon and we played against France and they have more quality and creativity in their players, but I think the Danish are maybe more a team," he said.
If Australia are to beat Denmark, they will have to find a way of breaching a defence that has kept five successive clean sheets and last conceded a goal 534 minutes ago.
There have been calls from Australian fans and pundits for van Marwijk to introduce 38-year-old record scorer Tim Cahill, who was left on the bench against France.
Midfielder Daniel Arzani, the youngest player at the World Cup at 19, is also pushing for a start after making a late cameo appearance off the bench in Australia's opener.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS