France thumped Paraguay 5-0 in their international friendly, riding on Olivier Giroud hat-trick, with the European giants crushing their South American opponents with ease in an incredibly one-sided game in Rennes on Friday.
Didier Deschamps sent out a very strong line-up, but surprisingly chose Arsenal striker Giroud to lead his 4-2-3-1 formation. Hugo Lloris started in goal with Laurent Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti the preferred centre-back pairing for the night and Paul Pobga partnered Blaise Matuidi in the heart of midfield. Young Ousmane Demebele, Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet were good support to the target-man Giroud, who scored two tap-ins with barely 13 minutes on the clock to justify his manager’s selection.
Considering Monaco hot-shots Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar and Lyon front-man Alexandre Lacazette were available, Deschamps opting for Giroud, who has not been in the best of form for Arsenal, raised a few eyebrows when the line-ups were announced.
Yet, he got off the mark in the 6th minute itself, smartly finishing Dembele’s cross from the right wing. Paraguay, ranked 36th in the FIFA rankings, simply did not know what had hit them and seven minutes later, Giroud and France had doubled their lead. Payet went past his man on the left wing and sent in a tantalising cross for his countryman, who made a diving header look easy.
Surprisingly, the hosts didn't add to their tally again in the first-half, content with controlling possession and Deschamps brought on Lemar and N’Golo Kante at half-time to bring some fresh energy into the side.
And it would be Giroud who would add the third, as the hosts put Paraguay to the sword on a breathtaking counter-attack in the 69th minute.
Benjamin Mendy, subject to intense transfer speculation as his alleged move to Manchester City is on the verge of being finalised, was taken off in the 67th minute for Barcelona man Lucas Digne. And Digne got an assist within minutes of coming on. Griezmann deftly flicked the ball to Lemar on the half-line and the Monaco forward released Digne on the left wing. And the full-back sent in a low cross which Giroud guided into the back of the net to notch his first-ever International hat-trick.
Griezmann was excellent all night and was rewarded with for his efforts when the Paraguayan defence and their goalkeeper Anthony Silva made a hash of routine cross. The blunder allowed the Atletico Madrid man to stroke the ball home into an empty net 13 minutes from time, barely a minute after substitute Moussa Sissoko had got himself on the scoresheet with a tap-in.
Considering this is France’s first international hat-trick since David Trezguet’s in August 2000, Les Blues can afford to be purring with delight after a sensational all-round performance in which their goalkeeper was a virtual spectator.