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Mbappe strike gives France 2-1 win in Croatia

  • Zoran Milosavljevic

    Reuters

Zagreb, Croatia   /   Thu, October 15, 2020   /   09:03 am
Mbappe strike gives France 2-1 win in Croatia Croatia's defender Borna Barisic (left) vies for the ball with France's forward Kylian Mbappe during the UEFA Nations League Group A3 soccer match between Croatia and France at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb on Wednesday (AFP/Franck Fife)

France stretched its unbeaten run against Croatia to eight games after a late goal by Kylian Mbappe gave the world champion a 2-1 win in its Nations League top-tier Group 3 match on Wednesday.

The result left France second in the group on 10 points from four games, behind Portugal on goal difference after the European champion brushed aside Sweden 3-0. Croatia has three points and the Swedes none.

France beats Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup final before defeating the country by the same score in last month's reverse Nations League fixture.

"We knew we'd be in a real battle," France coach Didier Deschamps told French TF1 television.

"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.

"It's not because we won a trophy in 2018 that you win by clicking your fingers. You have to look at the way the opponents play too."

Antoine Griezmann fired France into an eighth-minute lead when he drilled the ball home off the underside of the bar from 12 meters after Domagoj Vida failed to clear a Ferland Mendy cross from the right.

Mbappe missed a gilt-edged opportunity to make it 2-0 as he shot wide from close range with the goal at his mercy, while visiting keeper Hugo Lloris kept out Mario Pasalic's shot from three meters with a reflex save.

Croatia midfielder Nikola Vlasic equalized in the 65th minute, unleashing a sublime shot with the outside of his foot past Lloris after good work by Luka Modric and Josip Brekalo.

Substitute Paul Pogba missed a sitter for France before the visitor secured victory 11 minutes from time.

It was a crafty three-touch move as Pogba found Lucas Digne with a long pass from inside his own half and the left back volleyed a cross into the penalty area for Mbappe to slide in and steer the ball past keeper Dominik Livakovic.

Croatia defender Dejan Lovren rued his team's concentration lapses.

"France is ruthlessly efficient and it will punish you every time you switch off, even for a split second," he told reporters.

"Playing against the country is very frustrating because you can be as entertaining as you like but to no avail. The three points is all that matters."