Seven days before kicking off its 2018 World Cup campaign, Didier Deschamps’ France side is reeling, confused and disheveled, following a ropey 1-1 draw with a U.S. men’s national team comprised of youngsters playing solely for the 2022 tournament at Groupama Stadium in Lyon on Saturday.
To say the stats were lopsided would be the understatement of the year — 70 percent of possession; 350 more passes; 17 shots to 1 (6-1 on target) — and yet, Julian Green’s first-half goal counted just the same as Kylian Mbappe’s late equalizer.
Paul Pogba set in motion the one-way traffic of chances inside the game’s first five minutes, when he smashed the left-hand post of Zack Steffen with a strike from 22 yards out. Steffen hadn’t yet touched the ball, and was so nearly forced to pick it out of his goal with his first touch. A sign of things to come.
Olivier Giroud forced Steffen into a save five minutes later, and Antoine Griezmann flashed a left-footed effort across the face of goal and just wide of the far post midway through the first half.
The Yanks completed their 45-minute smash-and-grab job through Green in the 44th minute, as the 23-year-old collected the ball eight yards from goal and quickly uncorked a near-post shot which left Hugo Lloris baffled and helpless (WATCH HERE).
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Interim head coach Dave Sarachan deployed three center backs, flanked by wing backs Antonee Robinson and Shaquell Moore, and the likes of Matt Miazga (for 60 minutes), Tim Parker and Cameron Carter-Vickers bent but refused to break for more than 75 minutes, even with the overwhelming majority of the game’s scoring chances coming at their end of the field.
Miazga and Olivier Giroud were forced off right on the hour mark after the Chelsea defender and forward were involved in a head-to-head collision which left both players covered in blood from head to shoulders.
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It took 78 minutes, but finally Les Bleus broke through with their 14th shot of the game. Mbappe found a pocket of space near the penalty spot, and Benjamin Pavard found him with a low cross into the box. Steffen had no chance as Mbappe redirected his shot toward the far post.
The next time the Red, White and Blue take the field, it’ll (presumably) be with a new head coach in charge to face Brazil and Mexico in a pair of September friendlies.
Hope springs eternal.