Friday, October 15, 2021

France 0-2 Finland: World champions stunned by 21-year-old debutants

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 11 Nov 2020


Marcus Forss and Onni Valakari scored debut goals as Finland ended France’s 12-match unbeaten run with a shock 2-0 friendly victory.

A much-changed Les Bleus side made a promising start, but 21-year-olds Forss and Valakari struck in the space of three first-half minutes to put Finland in command at the Stade de France on Wednesday.

France debutant Marcus Thuram struck the crossbar before Forss opened the scoring, but the world champions were toothless ahead of their Nations League encounters with Portugal and Sweden.

Finland, who also rung the changes, were solid after rocking Didier Deschamps’ side with those two first-half goals from out of the blue and famously secured their first win over France, whose previous defeat came against Turkey in June 2019.

Thuram made a lively start on the left flank and almost opened the scoring when he rose high to head Lucas Digne’s corner against the crossbar 15 minutes in, before volleying over unmarked from just eight yards out.

France were dominant but Finland took the lead against the run of play just before the half-hour mark, Forss driving into the penalty area to fire home with his left foot after Rasmus Karjalainen dispossessed Moussa Sissoko.

Things quickly went from bad to worse for Les Bleus, with Valakari cutting inside onto his left foot and picking his spot in the top-left corner with a stunning strike from around 20 yards out.

Finland were brimming with confidence and Steve Mandanda had to be alert to keep out Joni Kauko’s effort with his feet early in the second half.

Antoine Griezmann, Anthony Martial and N’Golo Kante were introduced 12 minutes after the break, with Paul Pogba among the trio withdrawn, but France were running out of ideas.

Monaco full-back Ruben Aguilar made his debut off the bench and Griezmann firing wide in stoppage time when he ought to have scored summed up a frustrating night for France.

What does it mean? Fringe players fail to take their chance

Digne, Clement Lenglet and Steven Nzonzi were the only players who started the win over Croatia last month to be named in the line-up to take on Finland.

Deschamps would have been expecting those who came into the team to show the world champions’ strength in depth, but it was a flat performance after a bright start.

Mixed start for Thuram

The performance of Thuram might be one positive for Deschamps to take from a rare defeat. Son of France legend Lilian Thuram, the 23-year-old Borussia Monchengladbach attacker showed glimpses of his quality in Paris.

He had six shots and should have found the back of the net, but only once hit target. Thuram took on much more responsibility than some of his more senior team-mates, though, and also made two key passes. However, a lack of composure was evident not just with his finishing, as just one of his five crosses found the intended target.

Pogba ineffective

Midfielder Pogba’s struggles with Manchester United have been well documented and he had an evening to forget in the middle of the park.

While he failed to complete only six of his 51 passes, Pogba did not really look like unlocking the Finland defence and was often too deep to have a significant impact before he was withdrawn.

What’s next?

France face Portugal in the Nations League on Saturday, while Finland come up against Bulgaria away from home on Sunday.


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