France and Denmark secured their progression to the World Cup’s knockout stages with a dull 0-0 result in Moscow on Tuesday night.
For the most part, the game passed by lazily. Les Bleus had the more productive spells going forwards of the two sides, as well as a much more elegant style to their play. Outside of these points, however, the only thing for the supporters to shout about was the mutually beneficial result.
The draw resulted in France topping the group, with Denmark remaining in second place. As a result, heading home of the 2018 FIFA World Cup are Peru in the third spot and Australia in last.
Group C is decided
There were to be no surprises in the group’s final standings.
The pressure tonight was on Australia, with Denmark only needing to secure a draw against France to confirm their place in the knockout rounds.
Before a ball had been kicked in this competition, most pundits would have predicted something like this. Les Bleus, a classic titan, and Denmark, a talented European middleweight, were always favourites to go through.
The French did not make things easy for themselves in their opening clash with the Socceroos but eventually found a better rhythm – not that this encounter showed it. Similar things could be said about Denmark, who almost let Australia get away from them previously. But not all is settled and we eagerly await the next phase of the competition.
Stale, dull, lacklustre
Anyone in Australia who stayed up to watch this match was robbed of a few hours of sleep – providing they lasted the entire game. French and Danish fans alike will have been disappointed.
Les Bleus boast many attacking threats. With Nabil Fekir and Kylian Mbappé being tapped up by major clubs in Europe’s top leagues, this is undeniable. Until their inclusion later on in the match, however, their side appeared toothless and without attacking gusto.
The Danes are not without fault in this. While they do not possess quite the level of flair, the likes of Christian Eriksen have already left a mark in this campaign so far. It is not too much to ask for more passion in a game that is fuelled by it, even if the stakes are a little tempered.
A weakened side for France
It was widely speculated that Didier Deschamps would not risk his most iconic players in a dead rubber.
Nevertheless, make no mistake: the French squad is incredibly deep, but there was a lack of star power on the pitch.
The most notable absence was Paul Pogba. Midfield performances are often shaped by how the Manchester United man involves himself. His moments of brilliance can be match-winning from time to time and with him left out, the midfield did not pop as much as it might have.
There were others who were rested, or pushed to the bench, including Antoine Griezmann, Hugo Lloris, Samuel Umtiti, and Blaise Matuidi. All of these omissions contributed to the rather dour standard of play.
The first 0-0 of Russia 2018
We had been waiting for it for some time, but it finally arrived on Tuesday night.
There are usually a few goalless stalemates scattered throughout the group stages, but Russia 2018 was shaping up to be an exception to the rule.
All it took to break the streak was a mild night in Moscow – both in weather and footballing terms – with lukewarm motivation from the two sides. Hopefully, there are even fewer going forwards.
Mandanda finally takes to the pitch
Tonight has been a long time coming for veteran France and Olympique de Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda. Included in a number of previous squads, he had yet to feature in the World Cup, with Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris favoured over him.
The 33-year-old might have thought that his chance might never come. The French team was embroiled in controversy, scandal, and mess during his peak years. When it emerged from those troubles, it did so with Lloris between the sticks.
But at last, Mandanda has donned the gloves in the largest sporting spectacle on the planet, and he wore the responsibility well.