France came from behind to defeat Croatia 4-2 in a replay of the 2018 World Cup final on Tuesday.
Didier Deschamps’ side won by the same scoreline when the teams met in Moscow two years ago and they came out on top again in the Nations League Group A3 clash at the Stade de France.
A fine strike from Dejan Lovren put the visitors in front, but Antoine Griezmann struck and Dominik Livakovic scored an unfortunate own goal in the space of three first-half minutes to turn the game around.
Substitute Josip Brekalo restored parity after the restart, only for Dayot Upamecano’s header and a penalty from Olivier Giroud to keep Les Bleus level with Portugal at the top of the group.
Croatia took the lead in the 16th minute when Lovren exquisitely controlled a looping ball, beating Lucas Hernandez with a fine first touch and then firing a low effort beyond Hugo Lloris.
Griezmann was denied by the leg of Livakovic in the 33rd minute, though the goalkeeper could not stop the Barcelona forward adding a fine finish to a slick move two minutes before the break.
Les Bleus were in front before half-time as Anthony Martial’s attempt from Wissam Ben Yedder’s excellent low cross hit the post and rebounded in off the back of Livakovic.
Brekalo replaced Ante Rebic for the second half and scored within 10 minutes after evading Ferland Mendy to latch onto Mateo Kovacic’s stunning throughball.
Deschamps responded by sending on Eduardo Camavinga – who, at 17 years and 303 days old, became France’s youngest debutant since 1914 – and Giroud, but it was Upamecano who rose highest to head home Griezmann’s corner shortly after the hour mark.
Giroud tucked home from the penalty spot 13 minutes from time after Marcelo Brozovic was penalised for handball, while Nikola Vlasic saw a late 20-yard drive cannon back off the upright as Croatia were defeated by a familiar scoreline.
What does it mean? Slight improvement for Les Bleus
France lacked coherency in their new 3-4-3 system in their victory over Sweden but there were signs of improvement against Croatia, despite the absence of Kylian Mbappe after he tested positive for COVID-19. Wing-backs Mendy and Moussa Sissoko were more readily involved, but the team took a while to get going and could have been more co-ordinated in their pressing.
Griezy does it
After the disappointment of missing a late penalty against Sweden, Griezmann rebounded in style on his 37th consecutive appearance for France – a run only bettered post-World War Two by Patrick Vieira’s 44 straight appearances between 1999 and 2002. He scored the first for Les Bleus and assisted Upamecano’s header.
Rebic looks rusty
Rebic was key to Milan’s upturn in form this year but he struggled to get involved in Paris and was replaced at half-time. He had just 17 touches and did not use any of them to have a shot or create a chance for his team-mates, while he completed just five successful passes.
France and Portugal will put their 100 per cent starts on the line when they meet on October 11, while Croatia will warm-up for their next group game against Sweden with a friendly versus Switzerland on October 7.
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