France’s poor defending exposed again as Colombia wins 3-2
SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) — France’s casual defending was exposed again as ruthless Colombia rallied from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in a World Cup warmup on Friday.
European Championship runner-up France scored twice inside 26 minutes through striker Olivier Giroud and wide midfielder Thomas Lemar. But poor concentration from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris let Colombia back in two minutes later, when Luis Muriel’s cross eluded him and went in.
Roared on by huge swathes of yellow-shirted fans at Stade de France, Colombia leveled in the 62nd when striker Radamel Falcao swept in James Rodriguez’s perfect cross from the right for his 29th international goal. A clumsy foul just inside the penalty area from Samuel Umtiti gifted Colombia a chance to win, and substitute Juan Quintero slammed the spot-kick past Lloris in the 85th.
“Colombia really showed the character of a World Cup side. Not only did we turn the match around, we won it,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said through a translator. “The players really understood what they needed to do. They switched positions on the pitch and things changed.”
Colombia’s fans, seemingly filling half the stadium, celebrated wildly at the final whistle. France coach Didier Deschamps, meanwhile, has plenty of thinking to do prior to Tuesday’s game away to World Cup host Russia in St. Petersburg.
It must have felt like deja vu for Deschamps. His side twice led away to World Cup winner Germany in November, only to draw 2-2.
Against a spirited and tough-tackling Colombia, France often gave the ball away too easily, particularly in midfield. Colombia caused panic with every attack, particularly down the flanks.
“Our first half hour was of the highest quality. It seemed easy at 2-0 but it never is,” Deschamps said. “Colombia knows how to hurt you. We made a few mistakes and they really taught us a lesson, we’ll have to learn from it.”
Deschamps further underlined his players’ shortcomings.
“There’s a lot of quality in this team but it’s not enough. The highest level requires much more determination,” he said. “We had the same amount of possession in the first and second half without the same result. It’s happened before, when we’ve alternated between good and less good, and the second half really wasn’t good.”
Giroud’s 30th international goal moved him level with Jean-Pierre Papin and France great Just Fontaine, who holds the single-tournament scoring record for a World Cup with 13 goals in 1958.
It has been a frustrating season for Giroud, who became No. 3 striker at Arsenal following the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund. He moved to Chelsea in January, but he has managed only one goal so far for the Blues.
But back with France, Giroud shook off his club woes.
He swiveled and slammed a shot into the roof of the net in the 11th minute after a handling error from goalkeeper David Ospina — his former Arsenal teammate — from left back Lucas Digne’s cross.
France’s second goal owed nothing to luck.
Antoine Griezmann’s backheel found Kylian Mbappe, who dummied a defender and passed left to Lemar. He steadied himself before smacking a powerful shot past Ospina and into the right corner.
Ospina denied the lively Griezmann shortly before the break, but for all of its flair France leaves holes at the back. Muriel volleyed wide in the 50th and, shortly after, Lloris saved his angled shot.
France also has friendlies against Ireland, Italy and the United States before its World Cup opener against Australia on June 16. Les Bleus then face Peru and Denmark in the group stage.
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Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire