A slice of luck and a moment of individual brilliance from Kylian Mbappé gave France a gritty 1-0 win away to Sweden in their Nations League A Group 3 clash on Saturday.
Promoted to the competition’s top tier after their group victory last year, the Swedes frustrated the world champions for the opening 40 minutes until Mbappé proved to be the difference. The 21-year-old striker got a fortunate bounce off a defender’s legs as he danced through the right side of the Swedish defence before beating the goalkeeper Robin Olsen from a very tight angle at his near post.
With the clock ticking up towards 90 minutes, the Sweden winger Emil Forsberg forced a fine save from Hugo Lloris and Marcus Berg thumped a shot that was deflected wide as France held firm.
Anthony Martial, in the France squad for the first time since March 2018, came on in the second half for Mbappé and was brought down by Victor Lindelöf for a late penalty. However, Antoine Griezmann fired the spot-kick over the bar with the final kick of the game.
On Tuesday, Sweden host Portugal while France take on Croatia in Paris.
Portugal, the Nations League title holders and European champions, made light of Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence when they swept aside Croatia with a 4-1 home victory.
Returning to action after a 10-month coronavirus interruption, Portugal hit the woodwork three times before João Cancelo fired them ahead four minutes before half-time in the League A Group 3 match.
Diogo Jota and João Félix added goals in the second half before Bruno Petkovic pulled one back in stoppage time and André Silva added a fourth with the last kick of the game. Ronaldo, who is on 99 international goals, was ruled out with a toe infection.
Belgium enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win away to Denmark thanks to a goal in each half from Jason Denayer and Dries Mertens in their League A Group 2 clash.
Kasper Hjulmand’s reign as Denmark coach got off to a bad start when Denayer put the visitors ahead in the ninth minute after losing his marker to score from close range from Mertens’ corner.
Belgium took over in the second half, with substitute Dennis Praet snapping up the ball form an attempted clearance and forcing a smart save from his Leicester teammate Kasper Schmeichel. There was little the goalkeeper could do in the 77th minute, however, after he parried a shot from Youri Tielemans, another Leicester player, and Mertens reacted quickest to slam the ball home.
On Tuesday, Denmark host England, who beat Iceland 1-0 in Reykjavik on Saturday, while Belgium face Iceland in Brussels.