Varane’s late header steers France past SwedenOn 01/31/2019 by admin
The 21-year-old Real Madrid defender, made captain because regular skipper Hugo Lloris started on the bench, nodded home seven minutes from time before club mate Karim Benzema missed a penalty.
France, who qualify automatically for Euro 2016 as hosts, will play only friendlies until the finals and the lack of excitement was palpable until Varane’s goal.
Didier Deschamps’ team, who drew 1-1 with Albania on Friday, had a few opportunities but struggled to find the spark that helped them reach the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals. “We had a lot of chances even if we struggled a bit in the beginning of the second half, I’m happy we’re ending the year with a victory,” Deschamps told the TF1 TV channel.
Three Olympique de Marseille players started the game with Steve Mandanda taking Lloris’ place in goal and Dimitri Payet and Andre-Pierre Gignac spearheading the attack.
Sweden were without talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The striker was allowed to rest after he came back from a lengthy layoff to play in last week’s Euro qualifier against Montenegro.
France began brightly but lacked thrust in the opposition penalty box with Layvin Kurzawa’s volley from Paul Pogba’s cross sailing over the bar. Sweden had to do a lot of defending in the opening 20 minutes and try their luck on the break. Mathieu Valbuena went close for France on the half hour but his bicycle kick went just over.
Gignac found Antoine Griezmann in the box after 36 minutes and the winger’s poor first touch cost him a decent chance. France had another excellent opportunity three minutes into the second half when Gignac’s volley from Payet’s cross was parried by Andreas Isaksson who then blocked Griezmann’s fierce angled drive.
Deschamps then brought on Benzema and Alexandre Lacazette for Gignac and Valbuena to inject fresh blood into his front line.
Sweden coach Erik Hamren also replaced Isaac Thelin with John Guidetti. Griezmann’s corner was headed in by Varane in the 83rd minute before Benzema skied a penalty over the bar after Oscar Wendt handled.
(Writing by Julien Pretot, editing by Tony Jimenez)