France 4-2 Sweden
Olivier Giroud scored twice as France put Sweden to the sword at the Stade de France tonight, to condemn Janne Andersson’s side to relegation to League B.
This UEFA Nations League clash was a nicely poised game. While Les Bleus have a huge advantage in terms a squad packed with top-class players, the UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds had the hosts at 1.55 to win — but the Swedes came into the match with more at stake. Didier Deschamps’ world champions were already the first nation to qualify for the finals, courtesy of a superior head-to-head record over Portugal. While Sweden, joint bottom-dwellers of Group A3, were fighting for their lives.
Croatia lost their final game at home to Portugal, but survive on goal difference to fight another campaign in League A.
Highlights of the game
The Swedes came out all guns blazing and were ahead inside five minutes when Victor Claesson breached the hosts’ defence. It was all too easy for the visitors as the France backline stood aside. Midfielder Paul Pogba has angered Manchester United fans after declaring that playing for his country was a breath of fresh air compared to his struggles at Old Trafford. But as Claesson drove into the French box, Pogba slipped, and the winger had enough room to slide the ball beyond Hugo Lloris and into the bottom right corner.
Sweden kept their hopes of survival alive with a stunning 2-1 victory over Croatia, and this kind of start had them believing they could make the great escape. But France fought back as expected and Robin Olsen was forced into a save when Olivier Giroud met a cross from Antoine Griezmann with a powerful header. It wasn’t long before Giroud did have his equaliser, on 15 minutes, when he took a pass from Marcus Thuram and fired a beauty just inside Olsen’s right-hand post.
Les Bleus turned around the deficit ten minutes before the break when more good work from Thuram created the goal. The Borussia Monchengladbach forward showed quick feet and tight control to bamboozle the Swedish defence, and, when a block did stop his progress, the ball looped up for Benjamin Pavard to hit a sweet volley into the bottom left corner to send France into half time with a 2-1 lead. It could have been worse for Sweden had Olsen not made a fingertip save to stop a dipping effort from Adrien Rabiot.
Giroud missed a sitter of a chance early in the second half, one he’d normally put away with ease; but he mistimed his header and it bounced off his shoulder, though it still flew only inches wide. But he made no mistake with his next chance after a beautiful sweeping move by Les Bleus. Paul Pogba swung a cross-field pass to the feet of Kylian Mbappe, and the PSG man curled in an inviting cross for Giroud to meet and power his header home. Sweden were not going down quietly and Robin Quaison pulled one back on 87 minutes, and then they threw everything at France, knowing one more goal would have saved them and keeper Olsen went up for a late free-kick. But when France broke at speed with Olsen stranded Kingsley Coman passed the ball into an empty net to make it 4-2.
Les Bleus head to the finals unbeaten and, in terms of head-to-head France vs Sweden results, Deschamps’ side have taken their win percentage over the 50 per cent mark. In 23 encounters between the two sides, France have now won 12, lost six and drawn five.
Man-of-the-match Olivier Giroud scored his 43rd and 44th goals for Les Bleus; he’s the nation’s second top scorer of all time and is now just seven goals behind Thierry Henry.
A well earned 0-1 win over Portugal last weekend gave France an immovable grip on Group A3, but that was their only clean sheet in seven games. Not a statistic which will please their keeper and skipper Lloris!
So Les Bleus head off to the finals of the second UEFA Nations League; and Sweden make their way to new pastures in League B where they will thrive if they play with the spirit they showed tonight.
We’re back to domestic matters with a whole host of fantastic games for SBOTOP fans to look forward to across all four of Europe’s big leagues. In La Liga, Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona is the big game, where Antoine Griezmann returns to his old club Atleti, but Luis Suarez, who went the other way last summer, has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss that one.
Premier League favourites Manchester City head to Spurs to take on Jose Mourinho’s title hopefuls, while Bundesliga league leaders FC Bayern are at home to Werder Bremen who are unbeaten in six and sit in ninth place; and over in Serie A there’s a mouth-watering clash between Napoli and Milan to look forward to.
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