Fans left the Stade de France on Tuesday with renewed hope for France’s World Cup chances following an encouraging 4-0 friendly victory over Norway.
The quality of the opposition—and their lack of any motivation beyond pride—should be taken into account, but Didier Deschamps’s side nevertheless impressed as goals from Paul Pogba, Olivier Giroud (twice) and substitute Loic Remy powered the home side to an emphatic victory in Paris.
Beyond the scoreline there were plenty of positives on show in Paris for Deschamps, with Real Sociedad winger Antoine Griezmann in particular making his case for a key role at the World Cup with an eye-catching performance.
"We played with a lot of intensity and determination, which is very positive," Deschamps said afterwards, per the Associated Press. "We're not ready (for the World Cup) yet, but you can sense that there is a collective determination in this side."
Some great, assured performances tonight: Pogba (goal), Giroud (2 goals), Griezmann, Debuchy (assist)...— FFW (@FrenchFtWeekly) May 27, 2014
The tone for the game was set from the opening minutes, as France created two early chances. Griezmann had the first, forcing a good save from Orjan Nyland, before Giroud forced another brilliant parry from the goalkeeper from the subsequent corner.
Fifteen minutes later, however, France finally took the lead. It was a header that did it, Pogba perfectly placing his effort in the far corner after Mathieu Valbuena picked out the midfielder with a perfect inswinging cross.
Griezmann had started well, but it was Pogba who soon became the game’s dominant performer, flashing another shot narrowly wide after a making an imposing run from the halfway lane.
Norway, who are not heading for Brazil this summer, had their moments in attack—with Tarik Elyounoussi and Mats Daehli showing flashes of skill—but France goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier did well to deny their best chance, as full-back Tom Hogli tried to beat him from an acute angle.
The visitors reached half-time only a goal behind, but soon enough France doubled the advantage. Arsenal striker Giroud was the man who got it, showing good touch and technique to volley beyond Nyland from the edge of the box.
Deschamps continued to rotate his players, bringing on the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Lucas Digne and Remy as he continued to take the opportunity to assess his options ahead of the World Cup. The latter made an almost immediate impact; running onto club team-mate Mathieu Debuchy’s first-time through-ball before slipping a convincing shot inside Nyland’s near post.
By this time, Norway’s remaining interest in the contest had waned, and Giroud took advantage to add his second with a close-range header from another Valbuena cross.
The diminutive playmaker was then removed, as Deschamps used the remainder of his six permitted substitutes. With Norway also rotating things, the game lost a little momentum and, although France continued to push forward, the scoreline remained at 4-0 as the final whistle blew.
France's key man not on scoresheet though. Valbuena with 3 assists, sensational performance from the OM man to reaffirm his credentials.— Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip) May 27, 2014
In their last game on home turf before the World Cup—although they still have two friendlies to come before the tournament gets underway—fans could have asked for little more from the performance, which hinted at the possibility Les Bleus will be a dangerous attacking side.
Having said that, there remain some concerns about the defence, even if Mamadou Sakho and Laurent Koscielny were scarcely tested on the night. Deschamps will surely want to see them receive, and overcome, a more rigorous examination before they reach Brazil.
Overall, however, it was an encouraging evening’s work.