France beat Croatia 4-2 in an entertaining match in Paris to maintain their perfect start to group A3 of the UEFA Nations League.
The visitors started the better of the two teams and took the lead through an angled drive from Dejan Lovren after 16 minutes. A lovely move between Benjamin Mendy, Wissam Ben Yedder and Anthony Martial set up a volley for Antoine Griezmann that brought France level, before Martial tucked the ball in off the post and Croat goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic to give them the lead in injury time in the first half.
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Substitute Josip Brekalo scored a superb equaliser for Croatia early in the second half but a header from a corner by Dayot Upamecano restored the French lead soon after. Olivier Giroud came off the bench to add a fourth for France in the 77th minute after a harshly awarded penalty.
The victory means France are level with Portugal on six points at the top of the group but behind on goal difference. The two sides will meet in Paris in the next round of group matches in October.
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Can France find the right formula for Euro 2021? Manager Didier Deschamps made seven changes to the team that beat Sweden three days ago, showcasing the depth of one of the best squads in international football. His options are the envy of most nations, yet Croatia found enough room around his back three tonight to cause France serious problems. Can Deschamps find the right balance in his team to take France to the European Championship title that they so agonisingly missed out on in Paris four years ago?
MAN OF THE MATCH
Anthony Martial (France) - With Kylian Mbappe missing for France, a hole opened up in the starting line-up to give Martial his first start for France since March 2018. After a slow start, he eventually energised his team; his role in the move for Griezmann’s goal kickstarted France and he forced their second even though it was latterly credited as an own goal. His incisive running that has been a feature of his revival with Manchester United was a feature of his performance for his country tonight.
France (3-5-2): Lloris 6; Hernandez 6, Lenglet 6, Upamecano 7; Mendy 7, Nzonzi 6, Kante 7, Sissoko 6; Griezmann 7; Martial 8, Ben Yedder 6. SUBS: Giroud 7, Camavinga 7, Fekir 6
Croatia (4-3-3): Livakovic 6; Melnjak 7, Caleta-Car 5, Lovren 5, Uremovic 6; Vlasic 7, Brozovic, Kovacic 7; Perisic 7, Kramaric 5, Rebic 6. SUBS: Brekalo 7, Vida 6, Pasalic 6
France's forward Antoine Griezmann (L) celebrates with team mates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Nations League Group C football match between France and Croatia at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis
Image credit: Getty Images
16’ GOAL! France 0 Croatia 1 (Lovren 16) Croatia have deserved this. Rebic wins a corner after forcing Lloris to put the ball out when chasing an overcooked through pass. From it, the ball bobbles around and breaks to Lovren. He cuts the ball onto his left foot and arrows a drive through Lloris and into the far corner from 12 yards out.
32’ CHANCE! The best move of the night for France. Martial runs menacingly at the back four and slides a lovely pass to Griezmann in the area. He tries to shoot under Livakovic but the goalkeeper gets half a block on it and Croatia scramble the ball clear.
43’ GOAL! France 1 (Griezmann 43) Croatia 1 What a wonderful goal from France. A rat-a-tat of quick passes between, Martial, Mendy and Ben Yedder releases Martial into the area on the left. He could shoot, but nudges the ball across for Griezmann to volley emphatically into an open net. That's a brilliant goal.
45+1’ GOAL! France 2 (Livakovic o.g. 45+1’) Croatia 1 After playing poorly for 42 minutes, France are ahead! Sissoko does superbly to head a ball to Ben Yedder in space on the right of the Croat box. Ben Yedder whips a brilliant low ball to the back post, where Martial slides in from six yards to divert the ball on to the post and in off Livakovic.
55’ GOAL! France 2 Croatia 2 (Brekalo 55) We're level and it's another superb goal. A lovely, drilled ball from Kovacic picks out the diagonal run of Brekalo. Mendy looks to have him covered as he enters the penalty area but Brekalo cuts inside him and then outside Lenglet, before tucking his shot underneath Lloris for the equaliser.
65’ GOAL! France 3 (Upamecano 65) Croatia 2 France are back in front and it's so simple. Griezmann whips in a corner from the left and Upamecano loses his man to plant a header through Livakovic and into the net.
76’ PENALTY! Croatia are furious and Lovren plus one other seem to have been booked. It seemed as if a snap shot by Griezmann hit a hand - there is no VAR here - and it's Giroud to take it...
77’ GOAL! France 4 (Giroud pen. 77) Croatia 2 Giroud comfortably sends Livakovic the wrong way and tucks the ball into the bottom corner for France's fourth.
89’ OFF THE POST! That said, Vlasic spins and shoots in one movement on the edge of the box, only to see his low drive smash off the post and bounce out to safety.
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- Oliver Giroud became only the third player to score 40 or more international goals for France.
- Croatia have never beaten France in seven attempts.