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France book Russia spot with Belarus win

France book Russia spot with Belarus win

10/10/2017 at 22:34Updated 10/10/2017 at 23:56

World Cup qualifying Group A, Stade de France – France 2 (Griezmann 27, Giroud 33) Belarus 1 (Saroka 44)

France booked their spot at the 2018 World Cup with a shaky 2-1 win over Belarus in their final qualification match.

Didier Deschamps's side needed a win to be sure of topping Group A, arriving at Stade de France just a point ahead of Sweden before the final round of games.

The home side struggled to break down Belarus - battling to avoid a last-place finish - until Antoine Griezmann's cool finish gave them a lead that Olivier Giroud doubled minutes later.

However, Anton Saroka's excellent finish just before half-time gave the visitors hope.

Kylian Mbappe was introduced on the hour mark as Deschamps attempted to reassert his side's control over the game, but this was a side already missing Alexandre Lacazette, Paul Pogba, Laurent Koscielny and N'Golo Kante.

In the end, France were able to ride out the game and the Netherlands beat Sweden 2-0 to make the result irrelevant, but this was an uninspired performance in a potentially vital match.

Antoine Griezmann celebrates

Antoine Griezmann celebratesGetty Images

TALKING POINT

France need N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba back for the World Cup. It is obvious to say, but France struggled without two of the best midfielders in the world. They have plenty of talent across the pitch, but the system they use is much more effective with the defensive discipline of Kante and the attacking prowess of Pogba. Both need to be treated carefully as they return to fitness.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Olivier Giroud (France): It was odd to see him start when Deschamps has better forwards available, but he is nothing if not reliable. His goal gave France the margin of safety needed once Belarus hit back, and he provided an outlet for a team under increasing pressure as the match wore on. His experience could prove vital in Russia next summer.

Olivier Giroud celebrates

Olivier Giroud celebratesGetty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

France: Lloris 7, Sidibe 6, Varane 6, Umtiti 6, Digne 6, Coman 6, Tolisso 6, Matuidi 5, Lemar 5, Giroud 7, Griezmann 7. Subs: Mbappe 6, Sissoko 6, Payet 6.

Belarus: Chernik 6, Matveichik 6, Yanushkevich 6, Politevitch 6, Volodko 7, Drahun 5, Korzun 6, Kovalev 6, Karnitski 5, Stasevich 6, Saroka 7. Subs: Sachyuka 6, Skavysh 6, Burko 6.

KEY EVENTS

27' - GOAL! France 1-0 Belarus. Griezmann scores - Tolisso finds Matuidi on the half-turn, he slips in Griezmann ahead of him in the box, and he slots it past the 'keeper coolly.

33' - GOAL! France 2-0 Belarus. Giroud scores - A terrible defensive pass goes straight to Griezmann, 35 yards out. He finds Giroud ahead of him, who takes one touch into a defender and he stretches out a leg to guide it past Chernik.

44' - GOAL! France 2-1 Belarus. Saroka scores - A cross from the right is met by Saroka, inches ahead of Varane, and he guides a side-foot shot to the back post. Saroka had just moments before seen a half-volley shot from distance fly just over the bar.

63' - VOLODKO CLEARANCE! Lemar whips in a cross to the back post, with Mbappe lurking, and Volodko sticks out a right leg to turn the ball just wide of goal.

64' - SAROKA MISS! What a miss. Belarus break down the right wing, a cross comes in for Saroko and with only Lloris to beat, he stabs it wide and doesn't even make Lloris work for it.

69' - MBAPPE SHOT! Mbappe approaches the penalty box from the left, and attempts to aim a curling shot to the top corner, but Chernik plucks it out of the air.

Antoine Griezmann, France

Antoine Griezmann, FranceGetty Images

KEY STAT

France have qualified for six consecutive World Cups.

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