Matuidi keeps French World Cup destiny in own hands

Trevor Jackson
October 10, 2017

Bulgaria more than held their own in Sofia, though, as they looked to repeat the famous win over France that sent them to the 1994 World Cup, and Hugo Lloris was forced into a point-blank save to deny Georgi Kostadinov.

It wasn't all plain sailing for France as the engine was stripped out of their midfield 10 minutes before half-time when Chelsea's N'Golo Kante went off with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Adrien Rabiot.

Blaise Matuidi's early goal proved to be the match-winner with Les Bleus now on top of Group A with 20 points, one ahead of Sweden which thumped Luxembourg 8-0. The Dutch needed a victory in Barysaw to keep alive any hopes of a top-two finish, but despite a third goal in two games from Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Davy Propper, Belarus equalised through Maksim Volodjko. The lead was doubled in the 86th minute by Andre Silva.

Kylian Mbappe was next to come close for the visitors after breaking into the Bulgaria box, but the 18-year-old could not find a route past Plamen Iliev, who was on hand to make a smart save.

Switzerland lead Portugal by three points but have an inferior goal difference.

France are assured of at least a playoff place, with the best eight second-placed teams going through to the two-legged playoffs.

Meanwhile, Portugal struggled against Andorra at the Estadio Nacional in Andorra La Vella. "When you have good players, it's normal to expect us to make the difference".

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In Group H, Greece moved above Bosnia and Herzegovina into second place by rallying to defeat Cyprus 2-1.

Goals from Haris Medunjanin and Edin Visca put the Bosnians ahead in Sarajevo after Belgium full-back Thomas Muenier's early strike, but Michy Batshuayi and Jan Vertonghen turned things around.

The goal finally came in the 63rd minute when Ildefonso Lima could only get a slight touch to Joao Mario's cross, and the ball fell to Ronaldo to score.

The hosts were off to a flying start to the second half, but they saw Bozhidar Kraev yellow carded in the 62nd minute for a late sliding challenge on Raphaƫl Varane.

The other game in the group sees Gibraltar, who are without a point, host Estonia.

In Group H, Switzerland and Portugal set up a victor takes all meeting in Lisbon on Tuesday after both emerged victorious from their penultimate matches.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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