MOSCOW: France and Denmark served up the first goalless draw of the 2018 World Cup finals as they strolled their a concluding Group C game in the Luzhniki stadium, Moscow, knowing it was enough to take both through to the second round.
France, fielding a number of reserves, maintained unbeaten top spot in the table with the Danes content to finish second – and cushioned along the way by the knowledge that the only threat, from Australia, was being nullified in the concluding tie by Peru.
Didier Deschamps’s French team will face the runners-up from Group D on Saturday in Kazan. The Danes will play the Group D winners – almost certainly Croatia – in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.
Occasional spurts of attacking enthusiasm interrupted the tepid proceedings. Denmark’s Christian Eriksen came closest to a goal in front of the standard official Luzhniki attendance of 78,011.
In the first half he was over-optimistic in claiming a penalty after both he and French deputy keeper Steve Mandanda went down in a heap chasing a cross from Andreas Cornelius. Then, early in the second half Eriksen saw a hard, low free kick saved only at second attempt by Mandanda.
The only French threats were delivered late in the second half by Nabi Fekir, on as sub for Antoine Griezmann. First he thrashed an angled drive into the side net then he drew a sharp diving save from Kasper Schmeichel. But by that stage Denmark could afford to lose and still qualify for all the jeers and whistles which buzzed around the stadium.
Both coaches were satisfied to have achieved their pre-finals goals though the round of 16 was the target for Denmark boss for Age Hareide while it was merely the next step onward and upward for Didier Deschamps, the France boss
Deschamps said: “Our most important goal was to be top of the group. It was not a very exciting match because the Danish team was OK with a draw because and we didn’t have to take risks to do better.
“Now we are going to be climbing. It’s going to be more and more difficult. We will be humble but also ambitious to get to the next stage.”
Hareide was unapologetic about his team’s strategy.
He said: “It was very satisfactory that we were as disciplined as we were today. Our goal was to come here and progress to the last 16 but we had one of the toughest groups and the team with three points, Peru, perhaps played the best football.
“We just needed one point up against one of the best teams in the world on the counter attack so we would have been stupid to open a lot of space for the French team we played for the result we needed and we are very pleased with that.
“Our strength we have good people on the bench, good support, and people on the pitch and it’s fun to have at least one more match.”