Croatia 1-2 France: Les Bleus snatch late victory
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
France keep pressure on Portugal thanks to goals from Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé.
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France's dominance in this fixture continued thanks to two classy strikes in UEFA Nations League Group A3.
Match in brief
Antoine Griezmann's thumping eighth-minute strike set France on their way to a UEFA Nations League double against Croatia. The Barcelona man pounced on a clearance to blast his left-footed effort high into the net, after good work by Ferland Mendy on the right. Kylian Mbappé almost doubled the visitors lead in the 15th minute, but fired wide with the goal at his mercy.
Croatia grew in confidence and, on the half-hour mark, Mario Pašalić forced a save from Hugo Lloris from close range. The hosts' persistence was finally rewarded midway through the second period when Nikola Vlašić prodded home from Josip Brekalo's pass.
France sprung to life with 15 minutes remaining and substitute Paul Pogba forced a save from Dominik Livaković. Just under three minutes later, Pogba kickstarted the move that led to the winner, spraying a pinpoint pass out to the left for Lucas Digne. The Everton defender was able to volley a first-time cross into the path of Kylian Mbappé, who swept home.
Lloris was alert to deny Mateo Kovačić and Andrej Kramarić in the closing minutes to ensure France took maximum points.
Elvir Islamović, Croatia reporter
Although Croatia managed to level things up in the second half and they looked inspiring after the restart, the visitors showed their class once again. Zlatko Dalić knows what his side needs to improve on but also had some bright spots from the match, the performances of Brekalo and Vlašić among them.
David Crossan, France reporter
Deschamps will be delighted with the win, if not the way France were outplayed for the bulk of the second half. Les Bleus scored two excellent goals and played very well for the opening 25 minutes, with Griezmann rediscovering his goal threat. Mbappé was far from his best, missing a great first-half chance, but still ended up scoring the winner. The match proved inconclusive in determining whether the diamond midfield is best suited to the world champions.
Didier Deschamps, France coach: "We knew we'd be in a real battle. We started very well and it's a pity we didn't go two goals clear as Kylian had a big chance. We did what we needed to do in the second half."
Antoine Griezmann, France forward: "It was a difficult game and not a great one to play in. We fought hard and the most important thing is we won. We were all involved defensively and we took our chances."
Josip Brekalo, Croatia forward: "After not such a good start we really played well, especially in the second half. We had our chances and it could have been a different result at the end. I think we deserved more; we could even have won this."
• Griezmann's eighth-minute winner was the quickest competitive goal of his France career.
• Croatia are now winless in eight meetings with Les Bleus, losing six.
• Croatia lost a competitive home match for the first time in 20 outings.
Croatia: Livaković; Uremović, Lovren, Vida, Barišić; Badelj (Kovačić 46), Modrić; Pašalić (Brekalo 46), Vlašić (Kramarić 80), Perišić (Bradarić 78), Petković (Budimir 61)
France: Lloris; Mendy, Varane, Lenglet, Digne (Hernández 83); Tolisso (Camavinga 63), Nzonzi, Rabiot (Pogba 74); Griezmann (Giroud 83); Mbappé, Martial (Coman 63)
Sweden welcome Croatia on Saturday 14 November while Portugal are at home against France.