France’s first two games against Australia and Peru were entertaining, not necessarily because France played its best game, but they did score. In this third and final game of this round, there was no scoring, not from France or Denmark, and fans weren’t happy.
It’s the first scoreless game of the 2018 World Cup. With the standings remaining as they were before the game began, France wins their group and Denmark takes second, both advancing into the knock-out round.
With their advancing assured, Coach Didier Deschamps chose to put in some fresh faces and bench his star players. Goalie Hugo Lloris was replaced by Steve Mandanda, making his first international game debut. Among the defenders, Benjamin Pavard was replaced by Djibril Sidibé, and Samuel Umtiti by Presnel Kimpembe. At the midfield, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappé, and Blaise Matudi were on the bench.
France in white and Denmark in red, the game began. France looked fairly organized but play was pretty conservative on both sides. Forward Olivier Giroud took a shot on goal at 16′ but it was punched away. France continued to create opportunities to score… then would lose the moment. Denmark played a very dense game on their end, and there just wasn’t space for France to pass or take a clean shot.
Denmark came close to a goal at 30′, forcing goalie Mandanda to come forward and make the save. Foward Ousmane Dembélé took a shot at 34′, as does forward Antoine Griezmann at 40′. Griezmann got an opportunity to make an assist at 45′ but he was offside for his pass, and Giroud’s shot on goal didn’t clear the net anyway. Just a minute later, Griezmann got the ball from Denmark and was on a beautiful run down the field with a pretty open shot on goal before he was pulled down by a Danish player. The ref awarded a yellow card and France prepared to take a penalty kick, but, with the first half already a minute into stoppage time, the ref decided to end the half there.
At the half, the New York Times numbered France’s passes at 375 with a 86% completion rate, an impressive number for the first half and a great completion rate.
The second half began with a few fouls (or “fouls” if you’re a skeptic). Giroud got tangled up with a Danish player, and there were complaints of shirt tugging. Forward Benjamin Mendy was subbed in for forward Lucas Hernandez before Griezmann made yet another shot on goal. At 53′ Denmark’s Christian Eriksen got a free kick from a distance, but Mandanda was there to save it. France fans experienced a scare when the ball bounced away from him, but he was able to recover it before Denmark could kick it in.
At 58′ Denmark’s Eriksen made another shot on goal but it went wide. At this point in the game, you can hear frequent boos from the fans in the stadium, disappointed at the lack of action. Denmark threatened a goal again at 62′ with a corner kick but Mandanda punched the ball away. Forward Nabil Fekir came in for Griezmann at 67′, and immediately shifted into high gear, taking a shot on goal at 69′ that hit the outside of the net. Forward Kylian Mbappé came in for Dembélé at 78′, but the rising star never seemed to hit his groove.
In the last 15 minutes of the game, France was making efforts at a goal but no moves big enough to get there (it’s difficult with Denmark packed together so tightly). Fekir was one of the few players aggressively seeking a goal. He took another shot at giving France the lead at 82′, though he was unsuccessful.
Three minutes of stoppage time were added, but nothing except a minute-long injury by a Danish player occurred.
In History: Steve Mandanda becomes the oldest goalie to start in his first World Cup match at 33 years and 90 days.
Mandanda makes a save for Olympique de Marseille in a March 16 game.