France took control of World Cup qualifying Group I as they punished Spain’s surprise slip against Finland by beating Georgia 3-1 at Stade de France to claim a two-point lead in the group.
Goals from Olivier Giroud and the inspired Mathieu Valbuena either side of half-time were essential for Didier Deschamps’ side, who struggled to break down obstinate opponents for long periods of the opening 45 minutes. Franck Ribery added a fine third for les Bleus before Aleksandr Kobakhidze pounced to score a consolation.
Marseille star Valbuena was to the fore of many of the hosts’ best moves, and it was his free kick that produced the opening goal for Giroud in first-half stoppage-time. His delivery was met by a textbook header from the Arsenal forward that picked out the corner of the net.
It took only moments after the restart for the home side to add to their tally. Giroud and Ribery combined down the left to set up Valbuena to smash home a terrific shot into the roof of the goal.
Quarter of an hour later it was Ribery’s turn to score from a Valbuena pass. The Marseille man showed his confidence with a superb crossfield ball that was fired in at the near post by his former team-mate at Stade Velodrome, who easily beat Zurab Khizanishvili.
When Valbuena was withdrawn to be rested for Tuesday’s match against Spain, France allowed their concentration to slip, and Kobakhidze clinically shot home after a lapse from Mamadou Sakho following a Ucha Lobjanidze cross.
Although Ribery’s fine solo run on six minutes ended with the winger clipping the top of the crossbar, France would be stifled impressively for much of the first half.
Karim Benzema would be particularly profligate, as he scuffed a near post chance wide after fine work for Gael Clichy. The Real Madrid man looked shorn of confidence throughout, and his failure to beat Giorgi Loria when clean through soon after France’s second typified another poor outing for the national side.
Giroud was also guilty of profligacy early on, as he lofted over after another pinpoint pass from the ubiquitous Valbuena.
But it was not completely one-way traffic, and had Hugo Lloris not saved well from Aleksandr Amisulashvili or Kobakhidze when the game was still scoreless, then the outcome may have been very different.
Nevertheless, Deschamps can feel pleased his side have taken control of their section ahead of Tuesday’s crunch encounter against Spain. Win that and France will be well on their way to Brazil 2014.
|Coach: D. Deschamps|
for M. Valbuena 66'
for F. Ribéry 78'
for B. Matuidi 81'
|Al Habsi to lead Oman at Asian Cup|
|Lacazette will stay at Lyon - Aulas|
|Southampton like Atletico, says Alderweireld|
|World Cup held PSG back - Blanc|
|Everton facing ´pivotal´ moment - Martinez|
|Zamora urges QPR to tie down Austin|
|Badstuber, Alaba set for New Year return|
|Burgos: Atletico will get the best out of Torres|
|Chelsea to offer Terry new deal - Mourinho|
|Rodgers excited by Sterling development|
|Strinic close to finalising Napoli switch|
|Torres to join Milan on permanent deal|
|Scottish Premiership Review: Celtic held to shock draw, rivals fail to capitalise|
|Wenger sings Song´s praises|
|Pochettino calls for bravery|
|West Ham could lose Allardyce - Sullivan|
|League One Preview: Saunders takes charge for Colchester clash|
|Aguirre denies any involvement in La Liga match-fixing scandal|
|Mourinho impressed by Koeman´s Southampton|
|QPR v Crystal Palace: Millen recast in familiar role|
|West Ham v Arsenal: Allardyce eyes further home comfort|
|Elusive Coppa Italia on Juventus´ wish list - Marotta|
|Jones eyes swift response|
|Millen focused on QPR clash|
|League Two Preview: Shrewsbury, Wycombe and Burton vie for year-end top spot|
|Mancini not expecting big-money signings at Inter|
|Tottenham v Manchester United: Carrick expects tough return|
|Pearson eager to see Leicester resolve|
|Newcastle United v Everton: Martinez demands clinical touch|
|Liverpool v Swansea City: Rodgers backs returning Mignolet|
|Bayern can still improve - Sammer|
|Warnock sacked by Palace|
|Aston Villa v Sunderland: No club too big to go down, says Lambert|
|Hull City v Leicester City: Pearson vows to keep going|
|Stoke City v West Brom: Hughes targets elusive back-to-back wins|
|Rodgers dismisses Balotelli exit rumours|
|Modric will not rush Madrid return|
|Dyche pleased with Vokes return|
|Southampton v Chelsea: Koeman vows to go on the offensive|
|A-League Review: Six-goal Gosford thriller, Victory leave it late|
|Manchester City v Burnley: Pellegrini warns against complacency|
|Dortmund can fight on two fronts - Watzke|
|Sterling hails improved Liverpool belief|
|Rosicky eager to build on QPR winner|
|Wenger: ´We made it hard for ourselves´|
|Kane: Spurs eye top four|
|Di Maria in doubt for Spurs clash|
|Ba left out of Senegal AFCON squad|
|Redknapp frustrated by penalty call|
|Wenger sees Giroud wrongs|
|Premier League schedule a ´disgrace´, says Poyet|
|Championship Review: Bournemouth stay top, Heskey scores on Bolton debut|
|Hughes lauds Bojan performance|
|Koeman: Saints marching on|
|Pardew rues referee error|
|Arsenal 2 QPR 1: Sublime Alexis secures the spoils|
|Martinez questions Walters decision|
|Poyet laments Sunderland mistakes|
|League One Review: Swindon cruise to win over Walsall|
|Irvine aware of need for improvement|
|United still doing ´very bad things´ - Van Gaal|
|Lambert proud of players despite Swansea defeat|
|Warnock bemoans Palace defence|
|Bruce hails Hull´s spirit|
|Pochettino relieved to come away with victory|
|Dyche: We had our pocket pinched|
|Monk hails Fabianski performance|
|Pearson demands greater concentration from Leicester|
|Kompany set for City return|
|Rodgers hails character after battling win|
|League Two Review: Ainsworth frustrated by Luton, Shrewsbury go top|
|Everton 0 Stoke City 1: Lacklustre Everton slip to defeat|
|Sunderland 1 Hull City 3: Triumphant return for Bruce|
|Burnley 0 Liverpool 1: Sterling wins it at Turf Moor|
|Leicester City 1 Tottenham 2: Eriksen piles misery on Pearson´s men|
|Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 1: Rooney extends hosts´ streak|
|West Brom 1 Manchester City 3: Three and easy for in-form champions|
|Swansea City 1 Aston Villa 0: Hosts break Boxing Day duck|
|Crystal Palace 1 Southampton 3: Mane marks return with star performance|
|Allardyce upbeat despite defeat|
|Van Dijk happy at Celtic - Deila|
|Table-topping Chelsea delight Mourinho|
|Chelsea 2 West Ham 0: Mourinho´s men ease to victory|
|Suarez enjoying Messi, Neymar link-up|
|A-League Review: Garcia rescues point for Perth, Adelaide up to second|
|Poyet calls for mid-season break|
|Van Gaal rules out Januzaj move|
|Rodgers: Balotelli may have to get used to bench|
|Lallana: I was trying too hard|
|Walker juggles music, football careers in Sweden|
|Song to face ´brother from another mother´ Fabregas|
|Adriano announces Le Havre deal|
|Pardew braced for Old Trafford test|
|Lescott unfazed by City reunion|
|Tskhadadze appointed Georgia coach|
|United to finish top three - Ferdinand|
|Allardyce: Stamford Bridge stalemate saved my job|