Two goals from Kevin Gameiro helped France return to winning ways with a 4-1 thumping of Bulgaria in Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Paris.
The Atletico Madrid striker marked his first start for his country since November 2011 in style as Didier Deschamps’ side came from behind to record their first victory in Group A and put last month’s disappointing stalemate with Belarus behind them.
France lost out on a place at the 1994 tournament thanks to an infamous 2-1 home loss to the visitors 23 years ago, and they were given a scare when Mihail Aleksandrov scored an early penalty after Bacary Sagna fouled Georgi Milanov.
The home side responded with a quick-fire double, however, thanks to Gameiro’s superb headed finish before Dimitri Payet’s cross found the corner of the net.
Antoine Griezmann, who received his award for Euro 2016’s Player of the Tournament before kick-off, struck a fine third shortly before the break to give France a stranglehold on the game that they never looked likely to relinquish.
Gameiro netted his second from a Griezmann cross to make it 4-1 in the second half, as France moved on to four points from two games and set up a tantalising clash with Netherlands in Amsterdam on Monday.
Stade de France was in fine voice as the teams entered the pitch, but the home fans were silenced with just six minutes of the match played.
Milanov twisted and turned in an effort to beat Sagna, who clipped the back of his heel inside the area to bring him to ground, allowing Aleksandrov to fire Bulgaria into the lead from the penalty spot.
France needed just 17 minutes to find a reply, however. Payet sent Sagna racing down the right flank, and his curling cross was glanced expertly into the far corner by Gameiro for his second international goal.
Barely three minutes later, Deschamps’ side were ahead. Payet collected the ball to the right of the Bulgarian area before whipping in a cross that evaded the head of Griezmann only to nestle into the far corner.
France looked suddenly buoyant as the tricolor flags appeared in the stands, despite the blow of losing Sagna to an apparent hamstring problem, and they celebrated a third goal shortly before half-time thanks to a gift from Dimitar Pirgov.
The defender’s square pass deep in his own half went straight to Griezmann , who steadied himself before arrowing a low shot beyond Vladislav Stoyanov from outside the area.
France’s dominance continued after the break as Laurent Koscielny steered a header narrowly wide before Paul Pogba blasted a ferocious effort from 25 yards agonisingly past the post.
But moments later, the home side had their fourth. Layvin Kurzawa combined well with Griezmann down the left flank, and the marksman crossed for team-mate Gameiro to tap in his second from six yards out.
Blaise Matuidi spurned a chance for a fifth, turning a low shot onto Stoyanov’s right-hand post from inside the area, but it did little to take the shine off an impressive display from the Euro 2016 runners-up.