France squad play basketball ahead of key Bulgaria clash

10 October, 2017, 00:33 | Author: Phil Peters
  • France striker Kylian Mbappe            
    
              
     
     
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Laurent Blanc has challenged the France squad to aim for a place in the Russia World Cup and go ahead to win it.

France were off to a flying start as a flowing team move ended with Antoine Griezmann teeing up Matuidi to blast home from a tight angle on three minutes.

France were held to a shock draw at home to Luxembourg in their last qualifier to leave qualification in the balance - just three days after a superb performance in the 4-0 thrashing of Holland.

France lost N'Golo Kante do an apparent hamstring injury in the 33rd minute, and Hungary almost equalised a few minutes later, only for Hugo Lloris to make a tremendous diving save to deny Georgi Kostadinov.

Juventus midfielder Matuidi lashed home an angled finish after just three minutes in Sofia, which leaves Les Bleus a point clear of Sweden and crucially with fate in their own hands ahead of the visit of Belarus on Tuesday. 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. Those results mean the likes of Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland (the latter two face off in a victor takes all meeting on Monday) will be guaranteed a playoff place if they win their final games.

With time running out, Holland took the lead again through a penalty from Arjen Robben on 84 minutes before Memphis Depay made it 3-1 with a free-kick in stoppage time. There's no one player who makes a difference.

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The first booking of the game came in the ninth minute, when Simeon Slavchev was yellow carded for pulling back Kylian Mbappé.

The best eight second-placed teams go through a two-legged playoff. With one match left to play, Bulgaria finds itself seven points from the second spot in Uefa qualifying group A, which offers a spot in the play-off round.

Portugal struggled for long periods in Andorra, needing the rested Cristiano Ronaldo to come on as a half-time substitute and help them stumble to a 2-0 win and set up a winner-takes-all showdown with Switzerland in Lisbon tomorrow.

Portugal is now second in their qualifying group behind leaders Switzerland.

Another game in the same group between two teams with no hope of progress saw Gibraltar lose 6-0 to Estonia after goals from Siim Luts, Mattias Kait, Sergei Zenjov and a 25-minute Joonas Tamm hat trick.

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