The €65 million (Dh278.6m) purchase from Monaco was one of six changes for already qualified Les Bleus versus Denmark as they wound up their Group C campaign with the tournament’s first goalless draw.
Lemar contributed to a dire match at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium as the boos rained down upon the final whistle.
Goals – 0
Assists – 0
Shots – 1
Shots on target – 0
Touches – 63
Passes – 51
Key passes – 2
Dribbles – 2
Dispossessed – 0
Lemar will look back at regret about this fixture.
His first involvement at World Cup 2018 was a forgetful affair. By half-time, he’d had zero attempts on goal, plus just the ninth-most touches and passes.
These figures improved marginally in the second period. His 63 touches and 51 passes were both the sixth-most registered by Les Bleus.
Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele looked livelier on the opposite flank.
MASTER OF EFFICIENCY – Even within an ineffectual display, Lemar’s technical acumen shone through.
The left winger’s pass accuracy of 92.2 per cent was the best among France’s attackers – and joint-third best overall – and he wasn’t dispossessed during two dribbles.
The quality of the 22-year-old cannot be questioned. Diego Simeone’s challenge at Atleti will be to revitalise the player and feed him into the capital club’s all-action approach.
DOMESTIC DOWNTURN CONTINUED – Lemar was one of European football’s revelations of 2016/17, notching 10 assists and nine goals as Monaco surprisingly tore their way to the Ligue 1 crown.
His relative downturn in 2017/18 ensured a poor title defence was mirrored by two goals and eight assists.
The verve of old was not present at the Luzhniki either, where he was a peripheral figure.
16th min CHANCE CREATED: Lemar fizzes the ball in and Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Presnel Kimpembe nudges a header wide.
28th min FREE-KICK: Lemar drove inside off the left flank and won a free-kick. His set-piece is put into a dangerous area, but diligent Denmark centre-back Simon Kjaer clears it to safety.
55th min SHOT: Popping up in the middle of the park, Lemar works some space and a fierce shot is blocked by the charging Denmark defence.
64th min ERROR: Has to hold up his hand in apology when a pass from centre field to the flank goes straight out. Camera then cut to an upset technical staff.
Lemar was given the full fixture by Didier Deschamps to leave a mark on the competition.
The head coach is a committed advocate of the winger. Faith, this time, that went without reward.
Les Bleus have enviable attacking depth and this could be the last we see of Lemar. Liverpool target Nabil Fekir and Dembele both pressed stronger cases for future opportunity.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
That task was well beyond Bert van Marwijk‘s side as they were easily outclassed by the already eliminated La Blanquirroja with goals by Andre Carrillo and Paolo Guerrero giving Peru a comfortable 2-0 victory.
Matt Ryan – 6: Not at fault for first or second goal, did what was asked, not much more
Josh Risdon – 5: Got forward well down the right, winning a free kick in a promising position, but had a busy day with the Peru attackers regularly giving him the slip
Trent Sainsbury – 6: Solid at the back as always and got into good positions in front of goal but just couldn’t find that header that Australia desperately needed
Mark Milligan – 5: Caught out for the second goal when he failed to close down Guerroro and was shown up for pace most of the game by the speedy Peru front line
Aziz Behich – 7: Given lots of time and space down the left, could have done better to block Carrillo’s goal, went very close with a left foot strike in the second half
Mile Jedinak – 5: Lucky to only see a yellow for a clumsy high foot early on, some telling long passes to put runners away, caught out badly with the second goal as the attacker breezed passed him
Aaron Mooy – 6: Controlled the midfield well, with some lovely touches and telling intercepts, his service when Cahill came on was poor however with his tame crosses easily cut out
Mathew Leckie – 7: Continually used as the focal point for crosses when Tim Cahill would have seemed a much better option, couldn’t get onto the end of a tempting Kruse cross in the first half, had some chances in the second half but hesitated rather than pulling the trigger
Tom Rogic – 6: One superb run through the middle of the Peru defence deserved a goal, but apart from that was well-controlled by the Peru backline, subbed for Irvine on 72 minutes
Robbie Kruse – 6: Got into some good positions down the left without having the courage to go for goal or deliver the killer pass, subbed for Arzani on 57 minutes
Tomi Juric – 5: Seemed a little off the pace, did well holding up the ball but Australia really needed an old fashion goal scorer, subbed for Cahill on 52 minutes
Tim Cahill – 5: Finally given a run when the game was gone at 2-0, tried hard but showed he was well past his best at this level and van Marwijk was right not to use him earlier
Daniel Arzani – 6: Introduced on 57 minutes with Australia needing three goals, showed his usual energy but struggled to get involved in the game as he tucked into a more central role
Jackson Irvine – 5: Came on at 72 minute for Rogic, did nothing of any note as he has done for all three of his World Cup appearances, name might as well have been Jordan for the mentions he got
Here are the key player battles ahead of this decisive contest at Saint Petersburg Stadium:
JOHN OBI MIKEL v LIONEL MESSI
Lionel Messi has just turned 31, but he has visibly aged by many years in Russia.
Even before Croatia tore Argentina into strips in Nizhny Novgorod last Thursday, you could sense all was not well with the apple of his nation’s eye.
He shrunk from the cameras during the national anthem as his hand reached for his brow and with every Croatian goal, there was an accompanying image of the Barcelona star almost urging the ground to swallow him up.
That Messi is unable to galvanise this Argentinian rabble will almost certainly go down as the biggest stain on his CV should they crash out at the group stage. Portugal have a sturdier midfield but nearly as many weaknesses individually – and you-know-who rarely shirks from the challenge no matter how dire the odds.
Messi has taken 12 shots already, the most by any player at the World Cup so far, and in reality he has one final shot to impress. Does he still have the strength of will?
There are very few occasions in which it is right and proper to compare John Obi Mikel to Messi though it by no means the first time they have crossed swords.
As he revealed earlier this week, Nigeria’s captain was a victim of the limelight-hogger at the 2005 World Youth Championship where he was expected to win player of the tournament. “But then Messi scored twice, both of them penalties, Argentina won 2-1 and I got the Silver Ball. Messi has kept on stealing awards from me!” joked Mikel.
While Mikel will never be mistaken for having Messi’s quicksilver touch on the ball, he plays in a far more attacking role for his country than he did for Chelsea.
As a No10, the 31-year-old releases the pacier, wirier forwards ahead of him in Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho. Interestingly though his tackle rate has remained high. His physicality along with box-to-box midfielder Wilfred Ndidi should give sorry Argentina more trouble.
AHMED MUSA v GONZALO HIGUAIN
Plenty of endorsement deals from Nigeria will be coming Musa’s way. He became not the only first Nigerian to score in two World Cups, but his nation’s highest all-time goal-scorer at the tournament full stop with his double against Iceland.
Those goals took his overall tally to four. And the bad news for Argentina is that his other two goals in 2014 both came against them, though La Albiceleste eventually won 3-2.
Musa is a centre-forward by trade though will arc in from the left and use his pace to worry full-backs. That’s what he did for his second against Iceland before his beautifully composed finish. Eduardo Salvio, more winger than wing-back, will not be enjoying this match-up.
Meanwhile it’s pick and mix for Sampaoli in this rag-tag Argentina side and Gonzalo Higuain appears the flavour of the day for this do-or-die clash.
Big man has replaced little man as Sergio Aguero is expect to drop out and with Argentina finding space in the box a premium, expect the wing-backs to start pumping balls in the box if all else fails.
October 2016 was the last time the Juventus hitman scored a competitive goal for his country – though that was his better than Aguero by a few months before he ended his own drought against Iceland.
Higuain at least, with just one substitute appearance at the World Cup so far, will be combative if nothing else and that’s what his side need with them backed up against the ropes.
FRANCIS UZOHO v FRANCO ARMANI
Francis Uzoho became the youngest African goalkeeper to record a clean sheet at a World Cup and he earned the accolade wholeheartedly.
The 19-year-old made an acrobatic save to keep out a stinging Gylfi Sigurdsson free-kick in that all-important victory over Iceland.
He has shown rare maturity despite only having two first-team appearances to his name with La Liga side Deportivo La Coruna. And Argentina’s faltering, if star-studded, attack won’t have been giving him sleepless nights in the build-up.
There’s reason to believe Franco Armani has been tossing and turning, however. He will have watched on in horror as Willy Caballero’s fluffed pass led to Croatia’s opener. That gaffe is the reason why he is in situ between the sticks.
Armani, of River Plate, is in effect La Albiceleste’s third-string stopper with Sergio Romero out injured. Given that Chelsea man Caballero is a capable back-up at best, he is quite clearly not highly regarded by Sampaoli.
Will he prove an unlikely hero or just another victim of the Argentina horror show?