France held by minnows Luxembourg

Posted Monday, September 04, 2017 by PA

France's World Cup qualification hopes suffered a setback as they were held to a shock goalless draw at home to minnows Luxembourg.

Didier Deschamps's side, who thrashed Holland 4-0 on Thursday, were expected to win convincingly in Toulouse but they were unable to break down a country positioned 126 places below them in the FIFA world rankings.

Midfielder Paul Pogba headed against the crossbar in the second half while Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert produced some fine saves to earn his side a memorable draw.

The result could have been even worse for Les Bleus, with Luxembourg midfielder Gerson Rodrigues striking an upright late on.

The Group A leaders had the chance to ensure a top-two finish with a win, but the stalemate cuts their advantage over second-placed Sweden to a single a point and leaves them looking nervously over their shoulders, with Holland and Bulgaria also still in contention for a spot in Russia next summer.

Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann had the first meaningful opportunities at the Stadium Municipal, firing narrowly over the crossbar before being denied by Joubert moments later.

Daniel Da Mota soon reminded the home crowd that the result was far from a formality when he had an effort blocked behind for a corner at the other end.

Joubert then denied Manchester United's Pogba to ensure the scores remained level at the interval.

Paris St Germain new boy Kylian Mbappe came off the bench to score against Holland three days ago and the fruitful cameo earned him a starting spot on Sunday.

The highly-rated 18-year-old was largely ineffectual though before being replaced by Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman just before the hour mark.

Manager Deschamps also threw on striker Alexandre Lacazette - in place of his Arsenal team-mate Olivier Giroud - at the same time as he attempted to break the visitors' stubborn resistance.

The changes almost coincided with an immediate breakthrough as Monaco full-back Djibril Sidibe headed towards goal, only for Joubert to once again protect his clean sheet.

Pogba was left frustrated when he nodded against the bar with 12 minutes remaining, before the plucky away side nearly snatched victory through Rodrigues' shot which struck the right post.

It was a big let-off for the hosts and they were unable to muster another chance to find a winner of their own as the game ended in a surprise draw.


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