Olivier Giroud was the star of the show as France came from behind to defeat Sweden 4-2 in their final UEFA Nations League Group A3 contest on Tuesday.
In spite of having qualified to the finals of the UEFA Nations League, France fielded a strong starting XI, but were behind just four minutes into the game as Viktor Claesson put the visitors ahead in Saint-Denis, capitalising on a slip from Paul Pogba.
France struck back soon after, though, with Olivier Giroud putting the finishing touches on a Marcus Thuram pass. The Borussia Monchengladbach star was involved again as his blocked effort after a brilliant run fell to Benjamin Pavard, who volleyed home to make it 2-1.
Sweden had a legitimate claim for a penalty denied on the cusp of half-time, but were denied. Fifteen minutes into the second period, Giroud got the second of his night with a fine diving header, putting the game to bed. Robin Quaison made it 3-2 in the 88th minute to give the visitors some hope, but Kingsley Coman struck in the stoppage time to ensure there were no late hiccups for France.
The victory meant France ended the group phase of the Nations League without a single defeat in six games. And here’s how we rated the performances of Didier Deschamps’s men on Tuesday.
Hugo Lloris: 6/10
Not a lot he could have done about either of Sweden’s goal with the first one getting in via a deflection while the second was a powerful finish from close range. Did not have a save to make for the rest of the night. Precise and sharp with his distribution.
Benjamin Pavard: 8/10
A fine all-round display from the Bayern Munich right-back, who was a reliable presence at the back, making two interceptions, two clearances and one tackle. Provided an outlet going forward regularly, playing one key pass and scoring the all-important second goal with a brilliant volley.
Raphael Varane: 5/10
Got away with one as his foul on Dejan Kulusevski should have led to a penalty for Sweden right before half-time. Prior to that, it was Varane off of whom Claesson’s effort deflected into the net for the visitors’ opener. Did intervene to deny Marcus Berg a scoring opportunity. Subbed off at half-time with a shoulder problem.
Presnel Kimpembe: 6.5/10
A rather straightforward outing for the PSG defender, who did what was required of him without much fuss. Won two of his aerial duels, while making four clearances. Misplaced just three of his 72 attempted passes on the night.
Lucas Hernandez: 6/10
Was on the field for just the first half and wasn’t involved a great deal during his time on the pitch. Steady at the back mostly, while he also did play one key pass before making way for Lucas Digne.
Moussa Sissoko: 7/10
An energetic, enterprising performance from the Tottenham Hotspur man starting on the right-side of the four-man midfield. Worked hard off the ball and looked to provide the forward thrust while in possession. Created a couple of decent chances for Giroud in the first half.
Paul Pobga: 7/10
Paul Pogba vs Sweden:
— The United Index (@theunitedindex) November 18, 2020
Slipped in the lead-up to Sweden’s first goal, but redeemed himself from that moment with a solid display in the middle of the park. Saw plenty of the ball and made good use of it, completing 62 of his 71 passes, which included one key pass. Sharp off the ball as well, winning three aerials and making a game-high four interceptions.
Adrien Rabiot: 7/10
Kept things ticking in the middle of the park for the home team nicely while also trying to break the lines by pushing forward every now and then. Drew a fine save from Robin Olsen in the first half with a fine hit from distance.
Marcus Thuram: 8/10
Making his full debut for the French national team, Thuram made the most of his chance with a fine attacking display from the left. Caused problems to the Swedish defence with his running and movement, as he set up Giroud’s equaliser before playing a key role in Pavard’s goal. Taken off ten minutes into the second half due to a knee problem.
Antoine Griezmann: 7/10
May not have been directly involved in a goal, but the Frenchman’s presence on the field added a lot of value for the hosts with his work-rate off the ball. Led the pressure from the front, attempting (5) and completing the most tackles in the game (3), while also making an interception. Played two key passes, with one particular through ball to Giroud standing out, while shot one over late in the game.
Olivier Giroud: 9/10
The senior statesman might not be playing a lot at club level for Chelsea, but clearly remains a vital part of Deschamps’s France setup. Drew a fine save from Olsen before equalising for his side. Should have scored a second not long after. But made amends with a fine headed effort to make it 3-1 in the second half. The work-rate and industry he offers at the top are invaluable.
Olivier Giroud is closing in on Thierry Henry's goalscoring record for France
5️⃣1️⃣ Thierry Henry
4️⃣4️⃣ Olivier Giroud
4️⃣1️⃣ Michel Platini pic.twitter.com/rZkcEeRCzI
— Goal (@goal) November 17, 2020
Giroud has now finished as France’s top scorer over a calendar year for five of the last six. The veteran striker now has 44 goals for the national team, only seven shy of Thierry Henry’s record tally of 51.
Kurt Zouma: 6/10
Replaced Varane at half-time. Was a steady and reliable presence at the back for France, making two important clearances.
Lucas Digne: 6.5/10
Came on for Hernandez after the restart and offered more energy and purpose on the left-hand side. Played two key passes in the 45 minutes he was on the field while completing two tackles, one clearance and one interception.
Kylian Mbappe: 7/10
Replaced the injured Thurman in the 58th minute and made an immediate impact, setting Giroud up for the third goal with a well-hit cross. Played one more key pass and completed two of his three attempted dribbles. Sharp cameo after making his return from injury.
Steven Nzonzi: 5/10
Came on for Rabiot in the 78th minute. Dispossessed three times in his short stay on the field.
Kingsley Coman: 6/10
On for Giroud with under ten minutes left. Applied the finishing touches to the late counter, rolling the ball into an empty net for France’s fourth.