The 2018 World Cup in Russia is right around the corner. In fact, it starts on Thursday. But before that, nations like France, Germany, Spain, etc are going through their final tune-ups in preparation. Meanwhile, the United States Men’s National Team is trying to figure out how much talent they’ve got by giving these kids a look.
Which brings us to Saturday’s friendly between France and the USMNT.
France and the USA played out to a 1-1 draw in Lyon yesterday, with the hosts coming in on the back of 3-1 victory over Italy one week ago. And they seemed like a good bet to continue their recent win streak. Meanwhile, the USMNT lost 2-1 to Ireland last time out and were looking for a response.
France set up in a 4-3-1-2 with manager Didier Deschamps fielding an experienced squad in their final World Cup preparation match. The visitors, playing a 5-3-2 formation, were brimming with youth and relative inexperience compared to their counterparts. France’s starting XI had 471 caps between them; the USMNT had just 89. Despite the disparity, the Americans held their own against a nation that should be considered amongst the favorites to go deep in Russia this summer.
The first half went entirely in France’s favor. Paul Pogba provided the first chance of the evening when he hit the post in the third minute. USMNT GK Zack Steffen was called into action on several occasions, keeping out Kylian Mbappé’s driven effort on 26 minutes and Pogba’s low drive just moments later. Antoine Griezmann sent a near post shot just wide from 18 yards.
In short, France continued to have the better chances. But with nothing to show for it, the US took a shock lead just on the edge of halftime after Djibril Sidibé clunked his clearance, allowing Julian Green—he lives!—to slot a shot past Hugo Lloris at the near post.
At half it was advantage USMNT. That is, despite a measly 35 percent possession and one shot on target.
The second half started positively for the Americans, however. They could have been two to the good just moments into the half, but Green was adjudged to be offside in the buildup. In a scarier moment, Olivier Giroud and Matt Miazga clashed heads on 55 minutes. The nature of the clash was particularly gruesome and both players were subbed out as a result. We hope for quick recoveries to both Giroud and Miazga.
France kept the pressure on in search of an equalizer, though, and Mbappé duly provided in the minute. A low cross from Stuttgart fullback Benjamin Pavard cut through the United States defense like a fine Brie, and the on-loan PSG star took his chance from 12 yards. A slight hesitating half-step from the brilliant young forward allowed him all the space he needed.
The final 10 minutes plus stoppage time were played out without much incident. Lyon’s own Nabil Fekir drew a save out of Steffen before a deflected cross forced him to tip over the bar. The USA frustrated France with their compact defending and tight shape, though. Space to operate was at a premium, much to the chagrin of French supporters who surely thought a big send-off was on the cards.
That said, the five-man defense was impressive in long spells but oftentimes caught defending too deeply. It allowed France to keep on the pressure, but this was ultimately unrewarding.
Deserving special mention is Crew FC midfielder Wil Trapp. Trapp has only made six senior caps, but he has captained the side in four of those matches. Today he brilliantly led the young group and saw them through with a result they should be proud of. That said, they now return home where they will watch France and many others do battle in Russia.
And while that’s all we can do too, hopefully this is a step in the right direction.