June 19, 2018 / 3:40 PM / in 5 months

France wary of Peru as they seek second Group C win

YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) - After struggling to beat Australia in their opening World Cup Group C game, France will not be relishing the challenge of facing Peru on Thursday as they have often struggled to make an impact against Latin American opposition.

Soccer Football - World Cup - France Training - France Training Camp, Moscow, Russia - June 18, 2018 France's Antoine Griezmann with Steven Nzonzi, Adil Rami and Benjamin Pavard with team mates during training REUTERS/Albert Gea

In their last 12 World Cup matches against Latin American teams, France have won four — including beating Brazil in the 1998 final — drawn four and lost four.

They defeated Australia 2-1 to go top of the group while Peru, in their first finals since 1982, lost 1-0 to Denmark.

But the results do not say how France stuttered and they do not show how Peru looked inspired even though they lacked efficiency.

“I don’t think France like to play against South American teams. With our style of play, our way to hold the ball, I think we can cause them trouble,” said fullback Miguel Trauco.

France center back Raphael 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.”

To achieve that, coach Didier Deschamps could hand a starting spot to Blaise Matuidi, who can be an imposing presence in midfield.

Matuidi replaced Corentin Tolisso in the opening match, bringing steel to the midfield instantly.

“Blaise came on showing that he was a leader,” said midfielder Paul Pogba. “He reacted the way the coach wanted him to. For a usual starter who had been sat on the bench, maybe for his last World Cup, he showed he was an example to follow.”

Although they lacked pace and creativity against Australia, France were the only team among the title favorites to win their opening game. While defending champions Germany were unexpectedly beaten by Mexico, Spain, Brazil and Argentina were all held to draws.

Hence victory against Peru could send France into the knockout phase with one game to spare.

In contrast, 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 Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.

Ousmane Dembele started against the Socceroos but he could sit on the bench with Olivier Giroud debuting at the front of the attacking line.

“It could be like against Colombia so we know what to expect,” said Giroud referring to their 3-2 defeat by the South Americans in a friendly international in March.

France will no doubt be hoping for a better result.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Peru, who beat France 1-0 in their only meeting in a friendly in 1982, will rely heavily on striker Paolo Guerrero, who was a substitute against Denmark.

The 34-year-old, whose doping ban was frozen just before the World Cup, is a likely starter against France after he impressed with his footwork when he came off the bench in Peru’s opening match.

Reporting by Julien Pretot; editing by Pritha Sarkar

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