France’s FIFA World Cup™ preparations have suffered a blow after the European powerhouse was held to a 1-1 draw by an inexperienced USA side at Parc Olympique Lyonnais this morning.
Les Bleus appeared to be heading for a shock defeat after Julian Green’s first half snapshot handed the Americans the lead, but Paris Saint Germain starlet Kylian Mbappe spared the side’s blushes when he stroked home a cutback from Benjamin Pavard 12 minutes from time.
Despite dominating possession and the shot count (19-2), it was a flat overall performance from the 1998 Champions that leaves coach Didier Dechamps with a series of problems six days away from their opening Group C clash with the Caltex Socceroos.
Coming up against a USA side boasting 10 players with under 10 caps each, France were consistently rebuked as they failed to break the visitors down centrally, and suffered several scary defensive moments when the Americans turned on their pressing game.
Coach Deschamps’ struggle to best assemble the raft of attacking options at his disposal has hung over France during the side’s qualification process and although Mbappe eventually broke the deadlock late on for Les Bleus, the 49-year-old is no closer to a eureka moment.
The France stalwart opted to field Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann in a 4-4-2 diamond with the Atletico Madrid man handed the number 10 mantle at the start of the match, while N’Golo Kante was flanked by Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi in midfield.
Pogba hit the post for the home side while Griezmann and Mbappe both went close, but until the introduction of Nabil Fekir for Griezmann late on, France otherwise struggled to carve away through their stubborn opponents and at times lacked intensity, ideas and direction with the ball.
Giroud was also withdrawn early in the second half following a sickening head clash with USA defender Matt Miazga, which saw Deschamps revert to a more dynamic three-man frontline with Mbappe playing centrally.
The 19-year-old finished the match partnered by Ousmane Dembele and Fekir, who played a vital role in unlocking USA’s defence for the equalizer, and will be pushing for a starting position against Australia after an indifferent performance from Griezmann.
Deschamps will also be sweating on the fitness of Giroud, who departed the pitch heavily bandaged and whose potential absence would fuel an emerging sense of trepidation for the world heavyweights on the eve of the tournament in Russia.
The Caltex Socceroos take on France at the Kazan arena next Saturday evening at 8.00pm AEST.