France start their UEFA Nations League campaign with a win against Sweden

UEFA Nations League: Mbappe Is France’s Hero… Again

Sweden 0-1 France

France have begun their new UEFA Nations League campaign with a victory tonight in a clinical display to beat Sweden at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.

Les Bleus kicked off as favourites to lift the title and a brilliant solo effort from Kylian Mbappe sent them on their way.

Sweden are no slouches, reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup at Russia 2018, and they have also qualified for Euro 2021 to make it six European finals on the run. But while France were not at their best, the hosts simply couldn’t create enough clear-cut chances to earn a result.

So Les Bleus make a winning start, and in other UEFA Nations League 2020 results tonight, there were victories for England, who beat Iceland with an injury-time goal, holders Portugal, who saw off Croatia 4-1, and Belgium who beat Denmark.

 

Highlights of the game

Sweden's efforts weren't enough to defeat France in the UEFA Nations League

Sweden’s Marcus Berg in action against France’s N’Golo Kante and Presnel Kimpembe during their recent UEFA Nations League clash

The first half told a story of two international teams which had little time to prepare and players who were fatigued from domestic duties, or undercooked.

The first action of the game was a booking for France debutant, 21-year-old Dayot Upamecano, when the centre-back picked up a yellow card for a clumsy challenge.

And that was about it until Sweden fired a warning shot on 19 minutes. France keeper Hugo Lloris couldn’t see any danger when Mikael Lustig lines up a shot from distance, he hit it sweetly but it whistled inches wide of the post.

The pace of play was slow and considered, and neither side looked likely to breach the opposite defence, though the experienced Marcus Berg forced Lloris into an acrobatic save as half-time approached.

But then champions do what champions do, and with their first shot on goal France went ahead.

And it was that man Mbappe putting on a show of individual brilliance to give Les Bleus a half-time lead. The Paris Saint-Germain man took on two defenders inside the penalty area before sliding the ball past Robin Olsen from the narrowest of angles.

Mbappe had been quiet throughout the first period, but when he had an opening he showed what a world-class player he is.

Even though his team was ahead, Didier Deschamps had work to do at half-time, and Les Bleus looked a little more adventurous after the break.

Full-back Lucas Digne sent over a superb cross which Olivier Giroud met, but his header sailed just wide of the post.  Sweden are always dangerous and Seb Larsson tried his luck from distance but his effort flew narrowly wide.

And that was about it. It was never a classic, but that one moment of genius from Mbappe was enough and worthy of winning the three points. Sweden will feel they could have shared the spoils but in all honesty, France keeper Hugo Lloris had a comfortable night.

 

Key statistics

The pre-match UEFA Nations League 2020 betting odds placed Les Bleus at 1.73 to win, and on balance they Deschamps’ side just about deserved the victory.

France had a single shot in the first half, hard to believe with a front line of Mbappe,  Giroud and Antoine Griezmann, but that was all they needed to take a half-time lead.

Deschamps men were marginally more expansive in the second half, but still lost the shot count by nine to seven, though Sweden could only register two efforts on target.

The defeat was a first for Janne Andersson’s Sweden in eight games, while Les Bleus have now won six from the last seven.

 

What’s next?

Didier Deschamps clearly has one eye on Euro 2021 when he hopes to add a European crown to Les Bleus’ World title. But in the meantime, the SBOTOP UEFA Nations League cracks on this week and we have some mouth-watering fixtures to look forward to.

On Matchday 2, we have a re-run of the 2018 World Cup final on the agenda when France meet Croatia, while Sweden entertain the 2019 Nations League champions Portugal, who won well against the Croats tonight.

Before a ball was kicked, Les Bleus were favourites to win the competition, and odds on to win Group A3 at odds of 1.80, and we’ve seen nothing tonight to doubt that. But they may need to up their game against Portugal and Croatia.

Sweden are the underdog in the group but all is not lost just yet.

 

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