Kylian Mbappe became the youngest player to score a brace for France since World War Two and Paul Pogba fired in a fierce free-kick as Les Bleus rebounded in style to beat sorry World Cup 2018 hosts Russia 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Didier Deschamps’ men had embarrassingly surrendered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at home to Colombia on Friday. They were determined to avoid a repeat in Saint Petersburg.
Striker Mbappe first expertly tucked in midfielder Pogba’s superb pass on 40 minutes. The latter then fired in a set-piece after the break, prior to Russia striking back through Fyodor Smolov 68th-minute tap-in at the back post.
But all hope was extinguished when Mbappe – who went off injured late on – then shot through goalkeeper Andrey Lunev’s legs.
MBAPPE STRIKES OUT ON HIS OWN
The ties binding France head coach Didier Deschamps to towering centre forward Olivier Giroud may have weakened after this.
Freed from his defensively cataclysmic wide role in a 4-4-2 formation last week, Mbappe relished a more central spot in a 4-3-3.
Reward for Deschamps’ faith in the out-of-sorts Paris Saint-Germain prodigy was another landmark achievement, one distasteful booking for diving aside, thanks to his double aged just 19 years and three months.
Deschamps is blessed with attacking options and does not seem to know what to do with them all.
His granting of eight appearances for Giroud in qualifying produced seven starts and a respectable four goals. But could the fluidity of an Antoine Griezmann, Mbappe and Thomas Lemar trident be the better option going forward?
It is intriguing to wonder whether Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho decided to watch this game.
The twisted relationship between the Portuguese and his record £89 million (Dh430m) buy has provided an ongoing soap opera throughout 2018.
In Saint Petersburg, Pogba was allowed to do his talking on the pitch. He duly stepped up with his first-ever goal and assist double in the same game for Les Bleus.
For his club, the 25-year-old hadn’t produced an assist since January 15 or a goal since November 18.
Another poor night seemed likely when a failed turn saw possession lost in a dangerous spot within the first two minutes.
Strength of character was needed to rebound. He must now do the same at Old Trafford on Saturday against Swansea.
CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
It has not been a good 180 minutes for France’s defenders.
Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane was appalling in defeat to Colombia and was dropped at Krestovsky Stadium. Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti kept his place, yet a wild attempt at a header sowed chaos in the defence from which prolific Krasnodar striker Smolov was happy to profit.
On the right flank, Stuttgart’s Benjamin Pavard looked exactly what he is – a centre-back playing out of position.
Deschamps should also have noted how more secure his side looked in a 4-3-3. Friday’s experiment must be left in the bin.