Wales swept aside as Olivier Giroud goal seals win for France
A Wales side lacking Gareth Bale were swept aside by a France team rejuvenated after their Euro 2016 disaster, with Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud scoring in a 2-0 win
Chris Coleman certainly will not forget Wales’ night of torment in Paris if this is to be one of his final games in charge of Wales. Antoine Griezmann starred in an attacking masterclass to force his stubborn side into submission at the Stade de France.
His acrobatic finish gave the dominant hosts a deserved lead in the first half, before Wales’ next generation almost turned the tide. But it was not to be as Olivier Giroud’s deflected effort wrapped up the win for Les Bleus as they gear up for an assault on the World Cup.
Wales had already suffered the heartbreak of failing to reach their first World Cup finals for 60 years. The setting for this friendly, the imposing Stade de France, was also a stark reminder of what could have been. The match with France could well have been the final of the European Championship 16 months ago if Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal had not brought Wales’s charge through the knockout rounds to an end. France have unearthed a haul of young talent since falling at the final hurdle at their home tournament. Paris Saint Germain’s Kylian Mbappe played from the start, in a team also including Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud.
If it was not already a mammoth task for Aaron Ramsey and co, they were without Gareth Bale. Their talisman had already pulled out of the squad with a calf injury, but it emerged hours before kick-off that he would be sidelined for even longer with a thigh strain just days after returning to training with Real Madrid.
His latest injury, the 19th of his career at the Spanish super club, will most likely keep him out until the new year, while fuelling ominous talk of an exit from the Bernabéu.
The warning signs were there in the opening 10 minutes. The first opportunity fell the way of Blaise Matuidi at the edge of the box but the Juventus man could only side-foot the ball wide. Wales got away with another one moments later when Corentin Tolisso fired wide after Chris Gunter had inadvertently headed the ball back towards his own goal and into the path of Griezmann.
Coleman’s side were running out of lives after 11 minutes when the crossbar came to their rescue. Mbappe was slid in by Giroud before unleashing a goalbound shot. Wayne Hennessey got down to save with his legs and turned to see the ball bounce up and on to the bar.
Their luck ran out after 18 minutes. Tolisso picked the ball up in midfield and clipped a perfectly weighted pass between the Wales rearguard for Griezmann to acrobatically finish past Hennessey.
It did not look like it would get any better for Wales until Neil Taylor made a rare foray forward and sent a low cross across the penalty area. Koscielny looked to have brought down Joe Ledley, referee Manuel Sousa played on as the ball fell at feet of Gunter, but the right-back hit his shot straight at Steve Mandanda
France showed no sign of letting up after the restart. Gunter – who was having a night to forget against one of European football’s most potent attacks – misplaced a clearance to give Giroud a clear shot on goal, which Hennessey was equal to. The upright was nearly called upon to save the visitors again moments later when Kingsley Coman fired a long-range shot that had Wales sweating.
Coleman then gave the Welsh football public a glimpse at their next generation, thrusting Ben Woodburn, Ethan Ampadu and David Brooks into the fray after 63 minutes. The Chelsea youngster Ampadu shot after finding the ball at his feet at the edge of the box. Aaron Ramsey got a touch which was not enough to force the equalier, and they were made to pay. Mbappe ran down the other end and crossed for Giroud, who saw his shot hit Chester en route to the back of the net to seal the win.