France will head to the World Cup on the back of an underwhelming 1-1 draw against the United States, with PSG star Kylian Mbappe on target.
Kylian Mbappe rescued a 1-1 draw for France against the United States in Lyon but Didier Deschamps’ men did plenty to undermine their status as World Cup front-runners.
USA caretaker boss Dave Sarachan saw his side absorb waves of pressure for most of the first half but one-time Bayern Munich forward Julian Green – who spent last season on loan with 2.Bundesliga strugglers Greuther Furth – capitalised on dismal defensive work to break the deadlock in the 44th minute.
After that setback, Les Bleus’ attacks became ever more lumpen and predictable, and Deschamps has plenty to ponder despite Mbappe finding the goal his personal endeavours deserved with 12 minutes to go.
Triumphant 1998 World Cup coach Aime Jacquet did much to contribute to a raucous early atmosphere at the Groupama Stadium and Paul Pogba rattled the upright early on.
But the boos endured by Pogba during the 3-1 win over Italy last time out were dealt out to the collective on this occasion, with France’s current crop looking some way short of the exploits of Jacquet and Deschamps the player.
Local hero Nabil Fekir began on the bench an hour after his purported move to Liverpool broke down, while Pogba saw a rasping fifth-minute drive tipped against the post by Zack Steffen.
Olivier Giroud then headed too close to Steffen as the United States’ right channel proved a productive attacking area for the hosts.
That was where Antoine Griezmann scampered on to Mbappe’s impish pass and spun a shot wide in the 22nd minute.
Blaise Matuidi made hay in the space behind wing-back Shaquell Moore once again but Tim Parker did just enough to prevent Mbappe from turning home.
Griezmann curled beyond the bottom corner as a Mexican wave began to churn around the stadium and the heavily shellacked visitors remarkably went in ahead at half-time.
Moore sprung forward, escaping his torrid defensive duties, and Djibril Sidibe made a terrible hash of clearing his testing cross, with Green squeezing the loose ball past Hugo Lloris at the near post.
Moore and Green combined to find the net again early in the second half but the goalscorer was correctly ruled offside.
Steffen inadvertently caused chaos inside his own box in the 56th minute – the goalkeeper’s robust challenge for a corner leaving both Giroud and USA centre-back Matt Miazga with bloodied heads to force substitutions.
The introduction of Ousmane Dembele in place of the Chelsea striker underlined the vast attacking riches at Deschamps’ disposal – making it all the more damning that his much-vaunted assortment appeared to run out of ideas as the second half progressed.
Pogba’s earlier verve made way for increasingly pedestrian and hopeful long-range attempts, but belatedly changing the angle of the attack paid dividends 12 minutes from time.
Benjamin Pavard, introduced for the previously culpable Sidibe four minutes earlier, found space down the right and steered in a low cross for Mbappe to stroke home.
Fekir came on and almost brought the hour down with a trademark free-kick but Steffen excelled himself once more, before a double save in stoppage-time from Fekir and Dembele marked a stunning finale for the imperious Columbus Crew man.
USA SUBS: Rubio Rubin, DeAndre Yedlin, Jorge Villafaña, Erik Palmer-Brown, Joe Corona, Timothy Weah, Eric Lichaj, Bill Hamid, Joshua Sargent.
USA Starting XI (5-3-2): Zack Steffen, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Matt Miazga, Tim Parker, Shaquell Moore, Antonee Robinson, Tyler Adams, Wil Trapp (c), Weston McKennie, Julian Green, Bobby Wood.
France SUBS: Presnel Kimpembe, Alphonse Areola, Ousmane Dembélé, Lucas Hernández, Steven N’Zonzi, Thomas Lemar, Florian Thauvin, Adil Rami, Corentin Tolisso, Benjamin Pavard, Steve Mandanda, Nabil Fekir.
France Starting XI (4-3-1-2): Hugo Lloris (c), Djibril Sidibe, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Benjamin Mendy, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé, Olivier Giroud.
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