A France team constructed of equal parts talent, organization and maturity continued to strut its stuff at the FIFA U-20 World Cup on Tuesday, bouncing hosts Turkey from the tournament after a 4-1 win in Gaziantep.
Les Bleuets led from pole to pole at Kamil Ocak Stadium in this ancient, southeastern city near the Syrian border, taking the lead shortly after the quarter-hour mark and finishing their bombardment with just over 15 minutes left on the clock.
But still looking for his first clean sheet of the competition, goalkeeper Alphonse Areola was visibly furious with his defense after Sinan Bakis pulled one back for Turkey in the 77th minute—another indication, if one was needed, of just how seriously the French are taking their fifth appearance in the U-20 World Cup.
Over the next 11 days that commitment to detail could end up paying off.
France finished a respectable fourth at the 2011 instalment of this event in Colombia and have targeted an improvement on that performance this time around in Turkey.
A quarterfinal against Uzbekistan, who beat Greece 2-1 earlier in the day, awaits along the Black Sea coast in Rize, after which will likely come a semifinal showdown with a powerful Portuguese outfit.
Man for man, it would still be a match France could be excused for fancying.
Left-back Lucas Digne came into this tournament as one of its more seasoned players despite being just 19 years of age.
He played a full season for Lille in 2013-14 and showed exceptional poise in delivering an inch-perfect ball to teammate Jean-Christophe Bahebeck to give France a 2-0 lead over Turkey in the 34th minute on Tuesday.
Sixteen minutes prior Mouhamadou-Naby Sarr had headed down Florian Thauvin’s corner for Geoffrey Kondogbia to turn into goal for the opener.
Both Thauvin and Kondogbia continued to pose problems throughout the remainder of the first half, which ended when the latter was booked following a confrontation with Fenerbahce defender Hakan Cinemre.
Thauvin—the Lille-bound Bastia playmaker who has perhaps underwhelmed so far at the U-20 World Cup—had a chance to finally open his goalscoring account when Bahebeck was clipped by Fatih Turan just inside the area, but he blazed his effort well over the bar and gave Turkey the slightest bit of hope heading into the final third of the match.
But the excellent Yaya Sanogo, confirmed as an Arsenal player just the day before, gave France their well-deserved 3-0 lead when he patiently waited for his opportunity on the counter-attack before stabbing the ball past a helpless Aykut Ozer in the 68th minute.
Six minutes later the advantage was four—Jordan Veretout having run forward through the centre and requiring only a single touch to turn the cross from the left into the back of the net.
All the while Paul Pogba functioned as a metronome in the middle of the park, directing play this way and that and showing the experience of a midfielder who played 27 matches in Serie A last season for Juventus and an additional eight in the Champions League.
Upstart Uzbekistan are up next for France, and a win on Saturday would ensure they at least equal their result of two years ago.
But you still feel there’s another gear for this team—one they’ll look to hit if they come up against the likes of Portugal, Colombia and Spain.
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