A slice of luck and a moment of individual brilliance from Kylian Mbappe 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 following their group victory last year, the Swedes frustrated the world champions for the opening 40 minutes until Mbappe 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 goalkeeper Robin Olsen from a very tight angle at his near post.
With the clock ticking up towards 90 minutes, Sweden winger Emil Forsberg forced a fine save from Hugo Lloris and Marcus Berg thumped a shot that was deflected wide for a corner that the Swedes could not capitalise on as France held firm.
Anthony Martial, who was in the France squad for the first time since March 2018, came on in the second half for Mbappe and was brought down by Victor Lindelof for a late penalty.
However, Antoine Griezmann fired the spot kick over the bar with the final kick of the game.
Titleholders and European champions Portugal made light of Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence as they swept aside Croatia with a 4-1 win in their opening Nations League match.
Portugal, in impressive form as they returned to action after a 10-month coronavirus interruption, hit the woodwork three times before Joao Cancelo fired them ahead four minutes before half-time in the League A Group Three match.
Diogo Jota and Joao Felix added two more in the second half before Bruno Petkovic pulled one back in stoppage time and Andre 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 while Croatia were missing key midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic after the federation agreed not to pick them before the start of the European club season.
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 Nations 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 off Mertens’ corner.
The home side pressed high up the pitch and captain Simon Kjaer did a good job of shackling Belgium’s target man Romelu Lukaku but, despite decent chances for Martin Braithwaite and Christian Eriksen, they struggled to get many shots on target.
The Belgians took over in the second half, with substitute Dennis Praet snapping up the ball from an attempted clearance and forcing a smart save from Kasper Schmeichel.
There was little Schmeichel could do in the 77th minute, however, after he parried a shot from Youri Tielemans and Mertens reacted quickest to slam the ball home and double the advantage as Belgium coasted to victory.
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