Saturday, September 25, 2021

France 2-0 Finland: Griezmann brace returns Les Bleus to winning ways

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 7 Sep 2021

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Antoine Griezmann’s double ended a five-game winless run for France as they defeated Finland 2-0 in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier.

Didier Deschamps’ men scored the opening goal for the first time in six matches, Griezmann delivering a stunning left-footed finish to become the fourth player to score 40 goals for France.

Finland were the most recent defeat team to triumph on French soil but rarely troubled in Lyon, Griezmann adding a second after the break to draw him level with Michel Platini in third on the all-time scoring list.

The hosts sit top of Group D and remain unbeaten despite their underwhelming return after a poor Euro 2020, while Markku Kanerva’s men have won just two of their past 12 games across all competitions.

Urho Nissila brought the first save from Hugo Lloris, his looping strike forcing the Tottenham goalkeeper to tip over before Karim Benzema called Lukas Hradecky into action with a left-footed effort.

However, Hradecky was no match four minutes later as Griezmann beautifully curled into the bottom-right corner after an offload from Benzema, who was appearing in Lyon for the first time since 2011 after returning to his former club with Real Madrid.

Paul Pogba came close to adding a second, though he could only volley wide on the stretch as he sliced his right-footed strike from outside the area.

Griezmann doubled his and France’s tally after the break, rolling a delicate shot through the legs of Hradecky after being teed up by Leo Dubois.

Atletico Madrid’s new loanee should have completed his hat-trick, Benzema again acting as the creator, but he could only poke over before acrobatically volleying wide with his next attempt.

Benzema could have had a goal of his own in the closing stages, but Hradecky got down well to parry away after the forward had struck a left-footed volley.

What does it mean? Deschamps ends winless run and furthers Group D lead

France had stuttered after their poor showing at Euro 2020, drawing their five games in a row for the first time in their history before the visit of Finland.

However, Tuesday’s win ensured their unbeaten run remains intact and extended their advantage at the top of Group D to a seven-point gap over second-place Ukraine.

Finland have played a game less than their closest rivals Ukraine but also sit on five points in third place, despite only picking up their first win against Kazakhstan last weekend.

Perfect Pogba

Griezmann will take the plaudits but Pogba appeared a class above at Groupama Stadium as he enjoyed a game-high 142 touches.

No player completed more passes than the Manchester United midfielder (113), who also recorded the most opposition-half passes (73).

In a complete midfield outing, Pogba managed 17 recoveries of the ball, 10 more than any other player on the pitch.

Poor Pukki

Teemu Pukki needs just three more goals to become Finland’s all-time top scorer but fired a blank in a timid performance, with a second-half caution not helping his cause.

Only the two goalkeepers, Lloris and Hradecky (both 28), had fewer touches than Pukki’s 29 and he won fewer than half of the nine duels he competed for.

To make matters worse, the Norwich City forward completed the fewest passes (14) of any outfield player in Lyon to play 90 minutes as he endured a torrid time up top.

What’s next?

France face Belgium in the Nations League semi-final in October before hosting Kazakhstan the following month. Finland next play Ukraine at Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

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