France capped their unbeaten UEFA Nations League group campaign with a 4-2 Stade de France win over Sweden, who drop down to League B.

Bidding to avoid relegation, Sweden started with a bang, with Viktor Claesson capitalising on a slip from Paul Pogba, driving into the box and shooting, with the ball taking a nick off Raphael Varane and squirming past Hugo Lloris.

Football
Ibrahimovic meets Sweden head coach to discuss comeback
26/11/2020 AT 18:58

France responded well. Robin Olsen had already made a good save to deny Giroud before the Chelsea forward drove home at the near post after meeting Marcus Thuram's pass from the left-hand side.

Thuram was also involved in the second. Coming in from his flank, he danced his way past a couple of defenders and struck it. It cannoned off a defender and fell kindly to Benjamin Pavard, whose first-time volley skimmed off the surface of the turf and nestled in the bottom corner.

France's defender Benjamin Pavard (R) celebrates after scoring a goal with France's midfielder Moussa Sissoko during the UEFA Nations League A group 3 football match between France and Sweden at the Stade de France

Image credit: Getty Images

France were beginning to dominate but could well have been pegged back on the cusp of half-time, when Dejan Kulusevski was felled by Varane in the area. It was a clear penalty, but there was no VAR to right the referee's incorrect decision.

Giroud missed a fine chance to grab his second after heading wide from an excellent Sissoko cross but soon made amends by flinging himself onto a perfect ball from Kylian Mbappe and finding the back of the net.

Robin Quaison pulled one back from close range after a fine team move to give the Swedes hope. As they desperately sought an equaliser which would keep them in League A, goalkeeper Olsen went up for a free kick and France took full advantage, clearing the ball to Kingsley Coman, who passed into an empty net to end the encounter once and for all.

France complete their group campaign with 16 points and can look forward to the Nations League Finals in October 2021.

TALKING POINT - In defence of VAR

We are all frustrated by the farcically long delays, which break up the flow of the game, but there can be no doubting that VAR has ensured some miscarriages of justice did not cost a team. It was not here today, and Sweden can feel aggrieved that they did not get a penalty after Varane's rather obvious foul on Kulusevski.

It was an awful decision and, while the entirety of the second half still had to be played, it could have saved the visitors from the drop. It is oddly arbitrary that VAR is used in some competitions, but not in others.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Olivier Giroud (France)

He may have had a hard time getting into the Chelsea first team this term, but Giroud now has five goals for his country this season, taking his tally to 44 for Les Bleus, with Thierry Henry's record of 51 in sight.

The veteran forward may not be the most glamorous pick up top, but he works incredibly hard for the team and all that industry was on show here. He may have missed two chances but he made amends with two well-taken goals. Even if he can't impress Frank Lampard, he remains a key cog for Didier Deschamps.

Olivier Giroud

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

France: Lloris 6, Pavard 7, Varane 5, Kimpembe 5, Hernandez 6, Sissoko 7, Pogba 6, Rabiot 6, Thuram 7, Griezmann 7, Giroud 8. Subs: Digne 6, Zouma 6, Mbappe 7, N'Zonzi 6, Coman 7

Sweden: Olsen 7, Lustig 6, Lindelof 6, Danielsson 6, Bengtsson 7, Claesson 7, Olsson 6, Larsson 5, Forsberg 6, Berg 6, Kulusevski 7. Subs: Helander 5, Krafth 6, Quaison 7, Isak N/A, Cajuste N/A.

KEY MOMENTS

4' GOAL! Sweden have the lead! Pogba slips in the box when he needs to clear it and Claesson picks it up on the edge of the area. He drives at the France defence and stabs a shot which takes a nick off Varane and completely wrong-foots Lloris. The visitors have a shock lead!

12' A fine save! Giroud has a free header after a fine ball from Sissoko but Olsen gets down well to his left to palm it away. The Chelsea striker was a fair distance from goal but could he have done better?

16' GOAL! France have been threatening Sweden since falling behind and they have their reward. Griezmann breaks from midfield and feeds Thuram. Giroud checks his run well and is in space on the edge of the box, meets the Gladbach forward's pass and powers it past Olsen at the near post.

36' GOAL! France are ahead now! Thuram has been excellent and he's involved again, weaving his way to the edge of the box and shooting, but off balance. The fall loops up in the air and falls kindly to Pavard, who strikes first time and his daisy-cutter volley nestles in the bottom corner.

45' Sweden should have a penalty. There's no explaining that decision. Kulusevski is completely taken out by Varane, who makes no attempt to play the ball but the referee is unimpressed. There's no VAR in the Nations League group stages to right the wrong and France keep their lead.

55' What a miss! Giroud should have France 3-1 up. Sissoko floats a beautiful ball up the veteran striker, who meets it, but puts it wide. He should have buried that - it was from short range and he was under no pressure.

59' GOAL! Giroud again! Sweden can't clear their lines and Pogba finds Mbappe on the left. The returning PSG star plays a fantastic cross to the near post and Giroud is there to send a diving header beyond Olsen. He atones for his earlier miss and France have a two-goal cushion.

88' GOAL! Sweden have one back - is this going to be a miraculous comeback?! Bengtsson plays one across the face of goal and Quaison loses Kimpembe to tap home from a matter of inches. With Croatia losing, one more goal for Sweden will keep them up!

90+4' GOAL! This is game over now. Olsen goes up for a late free kick but the ball doesn't go anywhere near the Sweden keeper. France clear and Coman passes it into the back of the empty net from halfway through the away side's half. That's that.

KEY STATS

  • Claesson's goal was the earliest goal France have conceded since Robbie Brady netted for Ireland on June 26, 2016.
  • Giroud has now finished as France's top scorer over a calendar year for five of the last six.
Premier League
Deschamps: Top-level Pogba can express himself when given the chance
18/11/2020 AT 23:12
UEFA Nations League
Mourinho doesn't want ‘scared’ Southgate’s job - The Warm-Up
17/11/2020 AT 08:06