Although we might not have got the Nations League opener we were hoping for on Saturday night, France just about managed to open their campaign with a 1-0 win in Stockholm.
With Kylian Mbppe managing to leave foreign soil the hero thanks to his winner late on in the first half, the defending world champions will be thankful they managed to come past what proved to be a plucky Swedish outfit.
As Didier Deschamps’ men prepare for a showdown against Croatia in Paris next week, what were the three big key talking points as an inconstant France claimed three points in Sweden?
Mbappe drags France over the finish line
Although Kylian Mbappe might not have been able to help PSG lift their first Champions League crown out in Portugal last month, the 21-year-old superstar once again cemented his spot as France’s MVP.
While the likes of Adrien Rabiot might have struggled to initially find his feet following his two years in international exile, French football’s poster boy proved to be the difference on Saturday night.
Demanding the ball from the opening whistle and clearly the one who was willing to take charge of the action in the final third, the 21-year-old finished a spectacular solo strike moments before the half-time break.
A constant threat and clearly the focal point for the defending world champions, Mbappe dictated the play in front of Sweden’s back four and was simply the difference-maker for Les Bleus in Stockholm.
Replaced by another international returner in Anthony Martial with 15 minutes to go, Mbappe will be looking to extend on his Nations League opener against Croatia next week and there is no doubt that PSG talisman will have one eye on the Golden Boot.
Plenty of positives for the Swedes
While on paper Sweden might have seen their seven-match unbeaten run on home soil come to an end this weekend, there are undoubtedly a string of positives for Janne Andersson’s men.
Showing from the opening whistle that they were not simply willing to sit back in two banks of four and defend a point, the Yellows certainly proved to be the driving force for the first half-hour and continued to press a French side who struggled to find their feet.
Proving during their successful EURO 2021 qualifying campaign that they were no pushover for any side across Europe, Sweden would have been left bitterly disappointed to have not had something to show heading into half-time.
A well-oiled machine under Andersson and sticking to their game plan from the outset, Saturday’s hosts would have felt that had Marcus Berg converted five minutes before the break they could have been on course for a real Nations League upset.
Although they might still be seeking a leading marksman to fill the void left by former icon Zlatan Ibrahimović, the Swedes will make their trip out to Portugal on Tuesday confident of causing more problems.
A night to forget for Griezmann
While Kylian Mbappe might have managed to drag France over the finish line on Saturday night, Antoine Griezmann’s dreadful 95th-minute penalty miss highlighted what was a forgettable night for the Barcelona forward.
Starting proceedings wide on the right of France’s attacking trio and accompanied by Mbappe and Olivier Giroud, the 29-year-old consistently drifted out of the game and hardly offered Sweden’s defence much of a headache.
Simply a bit-part player for large spells and almost lucky to have stayed on the pitch for the final whistle, his form over the past 12 months has been largely up for debate.
Although new Barca boss Ronald Koeman might have confirmed that Griezmann does have a future under him at the Nou Camp next season, the former Atletico Madrid ace has worryingly failed to find any real sustained run of form both domestically and with Les Bleus.
Now managing to record just a single strike in any of his last nine appearances on international duties, Griezmann’s night to forget in Stockholm might tempt Deschamps to give Martial a chance from the start against Croatia next week.
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