Russia vs France: Kylian Mbappe scored twice and Paul Pogba netted a brilliant free-kick as France beat World Cup hosts Russia 3-1 in a friendly at Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Mbappe’s impressive double and Pogba’s strike helped the 1998 world champions bounce back from Friday’s 3-2 home defeat by Colombia, while Fedor Smolov’s goal for Russia proved to be only a consolation.
“We always have this ability to create opportunities, to score, and we managed three goals,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.
“There are always things we can do better. In the first half, we gave away the ball a bit stupidly… But that was a little less the case in the second period.”
The game was preceded by a minute’s silence to remember the 64 people, including 41 children, who were killed in a fire at a Siberian shopping centre on Sunday.
Russia created the first clear chance of the match in the 15th minute when Alan Dzagoev found Smolov in the area, but Hugo Lloris kept out the Russian skipper’s low shot from 12 yards out.
The visitors came close through Mbappe 10 minutes later, but the Paris Saint-Germain forward was denied by home goalkeeper Andrei Lunev.
But Mbappe put France into a 40th-minute lead when he latched onto Pogba’s through ball, before cutting inside and lashing a low shot home despite the attentions of two Russian defenders.
Pogba doubled the advantage four minutes after the interval with a magnificent free-kick which curled into the bottom corner past the diving Lunev.
“We expect a lot from him (Pogba), I ask a lot from him,” said Deschamps of the midfielder who has found himself out of favour under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United in recent weeks.
“He was also playing a ‘comeback’ match, because it’s been a while since he played a full game, it’ll do him a lot of good.
“Apart from the free-kick, he showed creativity and quality of pass, he has that in his locker.”
Smolov gave Russia hope, beating Lloris after meeting a cross from Igor Smolnikov.
But Mbappe restored France’s two-goal cushion with seven minutes to go, skipping past Roman Neustadter and firing in a low shot which slipped through the grasp, and the legs, of Zenit St Petersburg keeper Lunev.
At the age of 19, Mbappe became the youngest player to score a brace for the France national team.
Although Russia put in an improved display from Friday’s 3-0 loss to Brazil, Stanislav Cherchesov’s side are now winless in five matches.
“All of them did their utmost today but none of them managed to avoid making mistakes,” Cherchesov admitted. “We need to analyse our performance quietly.
“After the match with Argentina we were criticised for a lack of attacking.
“We tried to play an offensive style of football in the second half of the match with Brazil and conceded three goals. Today we also tried to play attacking football from the very beginning.
“The matches against such teams showed that after we start to play open football we begin to experience problems at once. Luckily, we will not play against Brazil or France in our World Cup group.”
Russia open the World Cup against Saudi Arabia in Moscow on June 14, before completing their Group A campaign by facing Egypt and Uruguay.