(Reuters) - France coach Didier Deschamps hailed young striker Kylian Mbappe for his decisive contribution in the 1-0 victory over Peru in Yekaterinburg that enabled them to progress from Group C into the last 16 of the World Cup on Thursday.
Mbappe, 19, became France’s youngest scorer at a World Cup, prodding into an empty net on 34 minutes. He did not shirk his defensive duties either, providing extra cover in a tough second half as Peru attacked relentlessly.
“He’s got great qualities and he was able to show his pace today. I don’t think he sacrificed himself by defending. He just did what the team needed him to do. I’m very happy with his performance today,” Deschamps told a news conference.
“The attackers made an effort to make the team compact, working to recover the ball. With the quality showed by the Peruvian team, it was important to have a tight defense.”
Midfielder Blaise Matuidi, who came into the side in place of Corentin Tolisso, said France had done well against a Peru team lifted by their massed vociferous support in the stands.
“The opponents did what they needed to put us in difficulty. They were urged on by fantastic support and we felt like we were playing away. But in our weaker periods, we were still solid.”
Victory leaves France on top the group with six points while Denmark and Australia are on four and one respectively after their 1-1 draw earlier in the day.
Peru grew in confidence in the second half as they chased an equalizer but the South Americans could not find a way past France’s well-marshalled back line.
“We did what was necessary to win... our game was fluid in the first half but things were a lot tougher in the second,” Deschamps added.
“I wasn’t nervous but not totally satisfied. We were not able to always keep the ball and we had to defend for long periods, though we did it well. We have to improve on this.”
A draw against Denmark in their final match is enough for Les Bleus to finish as group winners but the former France international midfielder said his team had only one objective.
“We will try to win. We would never think of finishing second. Everything will be decided after the third match.”
Editing by Ian Chadband