Report: France 4 Turkey 1 – Under 20 World Cup
Despite a spirited spell in the second half, Turkey could do nothing to stop a confident performance from a much improved French side as they cruised to a 4-1 victory in Gaziantep. First-half goals from Geoffrey Kondogbia and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck gave Pierre Mankowski his easiest half-time team talk to date, and then after a good spell from Turkey it was Yaya Sanogo and Jordan Veretout who sealed the victory before a consolation goal from Sinan Bakis gave the silenced crowd something to finally cheer about.
Mankowski reverted to the side that had started the competition against Ghana, but for Kurt Zouma starting in place of the suspended Samuel Umiti. Florian Thauvin and Bahebeck started on the wings with Sanogo central. The midfield trio of Paul Pogba, Kondogbia and Veretout made up the rest of the side, and it was the Juventus midfielder who showed he was in the mood after only two minutes, shooting just wide with the outside of his right foot. Finally the much-hyped midfielder looked up for this tournament, and it would come to fruition.
Another player who looked up for the game was Thauvin, the Lille winger creating his first chance after five minutes; a lovely link-up with Yaya Sanogo and Thauvin cut it back and the now-Arsenal striker could only manage a weak attempt on goal. It was a sign of a French team that finally looked into the game from the very start, showing more drive and determination in the first 15 minutes than they had in the whole group stage.
The early pressure paid off after 18 minutes when Bahebeck’s corner was aimed towards Mouhammadou Sarr; he clashed with Aykut Ozer, the ‘keeper tumbled, and the ball fell to Kondogbia who was never going to miss from a yard out. Bahebeck nearly made it two just after the goal when his right-foot effort had to be turned over the bar by Ozer. France’s total domination of the game was taking its toll on the Turkish side; they were struggling to keep up with the power, pace and movement of the French side.
Movement was the key when France made it two. Pogba played a beautiful ball down the left releasing Lucas Digne down the wing; he played in a perfect cross and Bahebeck made a brilliant run inside and met the ball perfectly, heading past Ozer. That – apart from a contretemps between Kondogbia and Cinemre – would signal the end of the first half and an excellent 45 minutes for Mankowski’s men. Not many complaints about the performance except for the possible commitment of Sanogo in his movement, quite a few times when the ball was down the channels he showed a lack of desire to get in front of his man and drive towards the ball. Too often he was a half-yard off the pace and with that little bit of extra movement it could have been a much easier game for the French.
Turkey came out for the second half with a much better spirit and desire, pushing the French back onto the back foot and looking like the side that had impressed in the group stage. They should have made it 2-1 just after the break when a fantastic ball to the back post was met by Ahmet Calik, but the big man couldn’t power his header on target; it was a bad miss from a free header. The French looked a little rattled, the midfield and defence being pressed much better by the Turks, and Pogba and his teammates weren’t enjoying as much time on the ball as they had in the first half. Turkey’s main problem was that they couldn’t trouble Alphonse Areola in the French net, a lack of a striking presence really letting them down when it mattered most.
As Turkey attacked, the space behind their defence began to grow and it was Pogba that exploited the space, looping the ball over the top to the onrushing Sanogo, the forward taking a touch and placing it brilliantly into the corner. A great finish from the Arsenal striker. Pogba again was the architect as France made it four, a lovely ball down the right finding Dimitri Foulquier, and the right-back played the ball along the deck for Veretout to sidefoot in his first goal of the tournament and France’s fourth of the game.
It was a comfortable win in the end for Les Bleus – what a difference it makes when a team actually comes out from the first minute and plays to their potential. There were still periods of the game where they switched off in areas, and put under pressure the defence looked a little nervy, but it was a much better performance than we had seen in the group stage, and hopefully now in the knock-out phase, this is the France we will see improve for the next round against Uzbekistan.