S6 SCORE with theSun June 21, 2018

Time to up theante

I’mhere, saysBlatter Sepp Blatter, the former president of world football’s governing body FIFA, said yesterday he was in Moscow “to enjoy the World Cup”. Blatter walked into a hotel lobby in central Moscow and spoke briefly to reporters before he was surrounded by football fans who wanted to shake his hand and take selfies alongside him. Blatter, who led FIFA for 17 years, is cur- rently serving a six-year ban for unethical con- duct after the body was rocked by a global corruption scandal in 2015.

W ith their title rivals failing to fire, France have vowed to ramp up the intensity and put their stamp on theWorldCup with victory over Peru today. DidierDeschamps’steamwerefarfromfluid against Australia in their opening game in Russia, needing VAR (the Video Assistant Referee) and consequent Antoine Griezmann penalty,thenanowngoalabout10minutesfrom time, to snatch a 2-1 win. But, while unconvincing, a French side featuring a misfiring front three of the usually France vow to go all out as World Cup rivals flounder

Combo pix of France;s forward Antoine Griezmann (left) and Peru striker Paolo Guerrero. – afppix

prolificGriezmannandstarletsKylianMbappe and Ousmane Dembele at least avoided embarrassment. WithholdersGermanylosingtoMexicoand Spain, Argentina and Brazil all drawing their opening games, the Peru clash is a prime opportunity for the French to stake their claim as the teamto beat inRussia. “Wetookstockofwhatwasdonewellornot sowellandallagreethatwewillhavetoincrease ourphysical intensityand improveour attitude in general,” Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane, the France vice-captain, said yesterday. “Otherteams(amongthefavourites)didnot win or even lost. We won, but we know that there are things to improve on.We knowwhat directionwe need to go in.” Deschamps,aWorldCupwinnerasaplayer in 1998, has an impressive selectionof forwards tochoose fromandcouldgiveOlivierGirouda start. Talking to the press ahead of the Group C game inYekaterinburg, themost easterncityat thisWorldCup, Varane leapt to the defence of Mbappe, who faded after a strong start against Australia. “This is a player that is 19years old andwho did what few or no players did (in playing for France at such a young age). He has a lot of talent,” saidVarane, 25.

The defender also backed Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, who struggled for consistency in the Premier League last season and at times found himself on the bench. Pogba, 25, told French television at the weekendthathewas“themostcriticisedplayer in theworld”. “Not bitter,” was Varane’s assessment of Pogba, before adding to thepress: “If youcould be a little bit more positive as well, that would be cool.” France’s talented but young squad will be favourites against a Peru side beaten 1-0 by Denmark in their opener. But Peru, backed by their vocal fans who have travelled innumbers,were thebetter side for long spells against the Danes and missed a golden opportunity to go in front when Christian Cueva ballooned his penalty over Kasper Schmeichel’s crossbar. Another defeat for Peru, who will again be sporting their distinctive red sash shirts, could spell the end of their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds, in their firstWorldCupsince 1982. The34-year-oldstrikerPaoloGuerrero,who won a late reprieve to play in Russia after his drugs banwas overturned, came on for the last 30minutesagainstDenmarkandPeru’sall-time leading goalscorer looks likely to start. –AFP

Danesmust improve: Erik Denmark’s talisman Christian Eriksen knows his sidemust rediscover the attackingdynamism of their qualifying campaign if they are to follow up on their opening victory over Peru with a win against Australia in Samara today. TottenhamHotspur midfielder Eriksen, who provided the assist for Yussuf Poulsen’s winner, admitted Denmark didn’t produce the attack- ing football that yielded 20 goals in qualify- ing. “We certainly weren’t at our best,” Eriksen said after the win over Peru. “Peru were well-organised and they made it hard for us. But it is not always necessary to play amazing football to win. “You don’t get many chances at a World Cup and it was nice to see that we can actually also win even though it wasnâ’t great to look at.” “One of the most positive things is that we showed guts and we could be ourselves. The next game is another game, but it gives us confidence,” he said. “It could be like against Colombia so we know what to expect,” said Olivier Giroud referring to their 3-2 defeat by the South Americans in a friendly international in March. FrancedontfancyLatin Americanopponents After struggling to beat Australia in their openingWorldCupGroupCgame, Francewill not be relishing the challenge of facing Peru today as they have often struggled tomake an impact against Latin American opposition. 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. “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 centreback 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.” Ousmane Dembele started against the Socceroos but he could sit on the bench with Olivier Giroud debuting at the front of the attacking line.

Eriksen thedangermanasAustraliabid toshape destiny

Captain Mile Jedinak says Australia cannot afford to focus solely on dangerman Christian Eriksen (pix) when they faceDenmark looking for the win that could save their World Cup campaign. Agut-wrenching2-1 defeat toFrance in their GroupCopenerhaslefttheSocceroostargeting a win today as they seek to qualify from the group stages. TottenhamHotspurmidfielderEriksen,who scored 11 ofDenmark’sgoals inqualifying, is the key threat forAgeHareide’s side at the Samara Arena. But Jedinak, who scored from the penalty spot against France, says improving on a disciplined performance is also key for Australia. “We knowhe (Eriksen) is a fantastic player and obviously he’s got a huge role to play for them,” said Jedinak. “But we’re not trying to focus on that.We’ll definitely focus on them as whole and as a collective.Wehavetoworryaboutourselvesas well, and how we’re going to implement our style on them.” AsoliddefensivedisplayagainstFrancewon Australia plaudits but Bert vanMarwijk’s men are on the ropes. And with the psychological advantage of a 1-0winover Peru fromtheir openinggame, the Danes can afford to bemore flexiblewith their strategy. Australia, on the other hand, showed little attacking threat against France, their best

opportunity coming from a deflected header that had goalkeeperHugoLloris scrambling to save early on. Kasper Schmeichel, the son of Manchester United goalkeeping

running high”. “I don’t think that’s going to change until the last game against Peru,” said Sainsbury, whose strong performance againstFrancesawseveralclubscontacthis agent on the telephone before the first half was even over.

great Peter, will prove another formidable obstacle to Australia’s plans. Kasper has already beaten his father’s record for the longest timewithoutconceding a goal – 534minutes to Peter’s 470. An d a g a i n s t

“Thebiggest thing forus is thatwe knowwe can do better, that’s the biggest confidenceboost thatwe need.” Lacking attacking options inKazan,Australianfanswill hope Van Marwijk bends

topopulardemandtogive 19-year-old starlet Daniel Arzani his full debut,havingcomeoff the bench against France. “I feel like I’m

Australia, he will look to extend that streak. “ N o t h i n g surprisesmeabout him anymore. He has conducted his whole career so well,” said Peter

ready,”saidArzani, who scored his first goal in a 2-1 f r i e n d l y w i n against Hungary

Schmeichel, in comments madeinhisroleastelevision pundit.

lastmonth. “If you’regoing into the gameand it’s amust-win, theonlylogicalsolution is to make sure you’re attacking more and c r e a t i n g mo r e chances.” –AFP

Australia’s Trent Sainsbury, too, impressedonhisWorldCup opener against the French. And the Jiangsu Suning defender, 26,believesAustralianconfidenceis“still

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