Croatia 1-2 France
For the third time since 2018, France have come out on top against Croatia. A late Kylian Mbappe strike handed Les Bleus a 2-1 UEFA Nations League victory in Zagreb as the reigning world champions completed their hat-trick of wins over the Croatians.
The win sees France keep pace with main rivals Portugal, who remain top of Group A3 on goal difference after their 3-0 win over Sweden despite being without COVID-hit Cristiano Ronaldo.
As for Croatia, they’ve now lost three of their four Nations League matches and will be fighting to avoid relegation to League B.
Highlights of the game
The big UEFA Nations League 2020 news for France was that Didier Deschamps once again decided to play Antoine Griezmann in behind two strikers. Griezmann has had a difficult start to the season with Barcelona and did not make much of an impact in their goalless draw against Portugal.
But Griezmann has a habit of getting on the scoresheet against Croatia, and just like in their first Nations League meeting, he gave Les Bleus the lead after just eight minutes.
Ferland Mendy’s cross broke to Griezmann’s feet inside the penalty area, and after taking a touch to set himself, he unleashed a thundering left-footed shot that cannoned off the bar and into the net.
France really should have been two goals ahead after a quarter of an hour. After some fantastic link-up play from the front two of Martial and Mbappe, the PSG star looked odds-on to score but he somehow conspired to send his shot wide.
Croatia struggled to create too many clear-cut scoring opportunities in the first 25 minutes. Their two most notable chances were a Dejan Lovren header and an Ivan Perisic free-kick, both of which didn’t test France keeper Hugo Lloris.
But they finally forced Lloris into action on the half-hour mark. Perisic’s cross found its way to Mario Pasalic, who blasted his shot straight into the France skipper.
Croatia continued their search for an equaliser in the second half, and it eventually came in the 64th minute thanks to a fantastic finish from Nikola Vlasic. The CSKA Moscow midfielder received a pass at the edge of the box, took a touch with his left foot, then stroked the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his right foot.
France had a good chance to retake the lead through Paul Pogba, but his shot from close-range was well-saved by Dominik Livakovic.
As it turned out, Pogba would play a big part in France’s next goal, but as a provider. From inside his own half, the Manchester United man made a spectacular pinpoint pass to Lucas Digne, who got in behind the Croatia defence and delivered an equally impressive first-time cross that allowed Mbappe to slide in and score.
That wonderful goal proved to be the winner as France held on for the final 10-plus minutes to continue their domination of the Croatians.
There was not quite as much attacking in this match as in their previous two meetings, which both ended 4-2 in France’s favour.
The Croatians were on the front foot at home as they edged out possession (53 per cent to 47) and finished with twice as many shots (10-5). But just like in their World Cup victory, France’s world-class forwards made those chances count, which proved to be the difference.
Griezmann has now scored in each of his last three meetings against Croatia, while Mbappe — who missed their first Nations League meeting after he tested positive for COVID-19 — has scored in his last two.
France have won their last three meetings against Croatia and remain unbeaten against them in their eight meetings all-time (6 wins, 2 draws).
France will be back in action in next month’s international break, which kicks off with a home friendly against Finland.
Then, they have a huge top-of-the-table clash away to Portugal, which could end up deciding who wins the group and goes on to reach the Nations League Finals. Stay tuned to the SBOTOP odds for that match when they come out.
Les Bleus then finish up their campaign a few days later at home to Sweden. The UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds should be overwhelmingly in their favour to win that.
Meanwhile, Croatia close their Nations League campaign away to Sweden, which could decide who gets relegated to League B, and at home to Portugal.
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