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In difficulty despite an initial goal from Antoine Griezmann, the France team won its third victory in four Nations League matches, three days after the draw against the Portuguese (0-0), Wednesday winners of Sweden (3- 0) one month before the second leg against France in Lisbon.
France is the bête noire of Croatia. In eight confrontations, the Blues have in fact never lost against the red and white checkered team: the Croats again suffered a defeat on Wednesday October 14 during the 4e day of the League of Nations despite the return of their playing master, Luka Modric.
After a first period dominated by the France team, the Blues suffered against a Croatian team carried by the 6,300 spectators of the Maksimir stadium in Zagreb.
The Blues believed to make the match easy after the 33e Griezmann’s goal in the selection, scored after only eight minutes of play, but the Vatreni did not give up.
Between the French world champions and their victims in the 2018 World Cup final, already beaten in the first leg last month in Saint-Denis (4-2), the gap was narrower this time. Experience, thanks to a hint of additional efficiency, the Blues have nevertheless managed to extend their invincibility against the selection at the red and white checkered pattern.
At kick-off, Deschamps had chosen to launch Anthony Martial, rather than Olivier Giroud, associating Manchester United center-forward with Griezmann, of which it was the 40e consecutive selection, and Mbappé, engaged in two days with Paris Saint-Germain in the league.
With N’Golo Kanté in the stands and Paul Pogba on the bench, the midfield had an unusual pace around Rennes’ Steven Nzonzi, associated with Adrien Rabiot and Corentin Tolisso. In defense, Ferland Mendy was expatriated on the right to leave the left side to Lucas Digne, around the classic hinge by Raphaël Varane and Clément Lenglet.
If Mbappé lit the first wicks, the light came from an overflow of the left-hander Mendy who picked up speed his vis-à-vis to center with the right foot. His attempt, rejected by the defense, was exploited perfectly by Griezmann, whose heavy strike shook the crossbar before finding the net.
Lloris holds the house
In difficulty at Barça, not at his level against Portugal, the number 7 of the Blues celebrated his new offensive efficiency with a little dance, before receiving a strong kiss from Lenglet, his teammate in Catalonia.
Even if he is going through “a period a little more complicated on the offensive plan, (…) we know that he has this ability to respond to this France team, let’s be patient”, had urged Lloris the day before, in good captain.
The prediction of the Tottenham goalkeeper came true, but that did not prevent the Blues from suffering under the blows of the Croats, determined to finally make their bête noire bite the dust.
The red and white checkered selection did not give up until the equalization of Nikola Vlasic (65e) and she even believed to repeat the performance at the very end of the match, but Lloris won on strikes (86e, 90e) before the last two air trips in additional time.
The Blues also had several clear chances: Mbappé missed the target (15e), before the referee watched Martial collapse in the box on a stroller from Vida (19e), without putting his whistle in his mouth. In the second half, the incoming Pogba almost put the Blues in the direction of travel, but his shot was repulsed by Dominik Livakovic (77e).
Fortunately for them, Mbappé got them out of the rut (79e) on a superb cross from Digne in the half-volley, after a long serve from Pogba.
After this happy result, the Blues will be able to come and play an enticing group final on November 14 in Lisbon against Portugal, winner 3-0 over Sweden on Wednesday.