France hosted Colombia for a high-profile international friendly in the run up to the World Cup in Russia this summer. Les Bleus were in excellent form ahead of this clash, losing just once in their past 10 games, while the visitors were looking to end their recent struggles and inconsistency. The 2016 European Championship finalists were the favourites ahead of this clash, but the Colombia squad was by no means lacking in talent.
Giroud grabs an opener for France
This game represented a clash between the teams ranked ninth and 13th in the FIFA world rankings, suggesting that there was little to separate the two nations, but France unsurprisingly settled into the lion’s share of possession early on and looked the dominant side. Right from the off Les Bleus piled the pressure on Colombia, pinning the South American side back into their own third and playing right on the edge of the visitors’ box. The pace and dynamism of the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe wreaked havoc amongst the Colombian defence, with only Frank Fabra seemingly able to cope with the duo.
It didn’t take long for France to break the deadlock and it was Olivier Giroud who grabbed yet another international goal. A great cross from the left flank by fullback Lucas Digne was spilled awkwardly by David Ospina, and Giroud pounced to turn the ball into the thus empty net. The goal buoyed the already confident home side and they continued their dominance, knocking the ball around quickly and probing for openings in the Colombian back line.
Lemar strikes but Colombia get one back before the break
In truth France’s utter dominance was bordering on frightening as the half hour mark approached and they proceeded to score a sensational team goal that will no doubt be immortalised in many a highlight video. Griezmann and Mbappe were heavily involved in the pass-heavy build-up, but it was Monaco winger Thomas Lemar who finished it all off, burying his shot in the far corner to hand his side an emphatic lead.
Colombia responded incredibly well to the second setback however and they managed to grab an unlikely goal against the run of play just moments later. A dangerous, curling cross from Luis Muriel was aimed towards Davidson Sanchez, but eventually ended up in the far corner as Hugo Lloris failed to claim it, fearing that his Tottenham teammate would get a touch to guide the ball past him. The goal brought the visitors straight back into the game and opened up the play, lifting the tempo with it too.
The game was frantic in the final minutes before the break as both sides looked keen to add to their tallies. Colombia piled men forward in search of an equaliser, allowing Didier Dechamps’ men to play on the counter, scything paths through the visiting defence at will. In truth it was all Los Cafeteros could do to hang on until half time without conceding another, and Griezmann really should have handed France a third when he went through on goal but the striker was denied brilliantly by Ospina.
Falcao slots home an equaliser
The second half began in a much calmer manner than that in which the first period ended, and France seemed keener on preserving their lead than throwing bodies forward to increase it. Colombia actually looked the much better side in the opening minutes after the break and had a great chance to equaliser through Muriel. The striker was found expertly by Carlos Sanchez with a lofted ball, but he couldn’t quite guide his volley on target, lashing it wide of the far post. The visitors saw far more of the ball as they pushed for a second goal, and their defensive showing was much improved too as they closed down the spaces that France had exploited in the first half.
Muriel had another good chance just before the hour mark after dispossessing Raphael Varane in the France box, and this time his effort was directed on target with some venom, but Lloris was equal to it, preserving his side’s slender lead. That lead didn’t last much longer however as Colombia capitalised on their spell of attacking pressure, and it was Radamel Falcao who got the goal. Carlos Sanchez did excellently to dispossess N’Golo Kante in midfield, before picking a perfect pass to James Rodriguez on the right wing. The Bayern Munich man squared the ball back across the box and Falcao finished coolly into the bottom corner, leaving Lloris no chance. It was nothing more than the visitors deserved and blasted the game wide open.
The Colombians win it late on
The game was a much more even affair after the equaliser and it looked as if either side could go on to win it. The introduction of Paul Pogba however did seem to tip the balance slightly in France’s favour, and the Manchester United midfielder tested Ospina with a long range effort, forcing a good save from the Arsenal shot stopper. The home side began to dominate the possession once again and they slowly pegged Colombia further and further back, probing for a late winner.
As the clock ticked down it became a backs-to-the-wall defensive performance from the visitors as France pushed furiously for winning goal in front of their fans. Colombia did remain a threat on the break however and they managed to earn a penalty one on of their lightning-quick ventures forward. A clumsy tackle from Samuel Umtiti allowed Juan Fernando Quintero to step up and slam home an emphatic spot kick, ultimately winning the game for his side. Despite the best efforts of Deschamps’ men they couldn’t convert their late pressure to a goal and Colombia ran out as fantastic winners.
France looked as if they would run away with this game after going 2-0 up so early, but after Colombia’s equaliser they seemed to run out of ideas going forward. Some sloppy defending cost them in this game and that is something that will certainly need to be worked on before the World Cup comes around.
At 2-0 down and having barely made an impact on the game, Colombia could have been forgiven for switching off in this friendly. They stuck with it however and managed a remarkable comeback, earning their win with style and talent. This was a fantastic morale-boosting win on the road to the World Cup for Los Cafeteros, who will now be taken very seriously come the summer. The post-match festivities proved how much this meant to the South American side as they picked up their first ever win against France.
France: Lloris, Sidibe, Varane, Umtiti, Digne (Hernandez, 76’), Lemar, Matuidi (Pogba, 65’), Kante, Mbappe (Dembele, 66’), Giroud (Ben Yedder, 73’), Griezmann (Thauvin, 83’)
Colombia: Ospina, Fabra, D. Sanchez, Mina, Arias, C. Sanchez, Uribe (Barrios, 90’), Falcao (Zapata, 68’), Muriel (Izquierdo, 77’), Aguilar (Lerma, 67’), Rodriguez (Quintero, 83’)
Goals: Giroud (1-0, 11’), Lemar (2-0, 26’), Muriel (2-1, 28’), Falcao (2-2, 62’), Quintero (2-3, 85’)
Yellow Cards: Arias (33’), Digne (34’), Aguilar (58’)
Red Cards: None
France: Lloris 6, Sidibe 6, Varane 6, Umtiti 6, Digne 8 (Hernandez n/a), Lemar 8, Matuidi 7 (Pogba n/a), Kante 6.5, Mbappe 8 (Dembele n/a), Giroud 8 (Ben Yedder n/a), Griezmann 7 (Thauvin n/a)
Colombia: Ospina 6, Fabra 7.5, D. Sanchez 7.5, Mina 7, Arias 7, C. Sanchez 8, Uribe 6.5 (Barrios n/a), Falcao 8 (Zapata n/a), Muriel 8 (Izquierdo n/a), Aguilar 6.5 (Lerma n/a), Rodriguez 8 (Quintero n/a)
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