Sunday, 22 October, 2017

France Almost There, Looks Impossible for the Netherlands & Portugal

France striker Kylian Mbappe            
    
              
     
     
           Show Grid France striker Kylian Mbappe Show Grid
Saul Franklin | 10 October, 2017, 00:32

An early goal by Blaise Matuidi was enough for France to secure the full points on a soggy pitch at the Vassil Levski national stadium, as both teams struggled to get much traction in attack.

France have returned to the top of their 2018 World Cup qualification group courtesy of a 1-0 win over Bulgaria on Saturday night. Will we win the World Cup?

"It was a hard match with lots of mistakes, commitment", said coach Deschamps.

France were held to a shock draw at home to Luxembourg in their last qualifier to leave qualification in the balance - just three days after a superb performance in the 4-0 thrashing of Holland.

The Netherlands are looking to avoid failing to qualify for successive major tournaments for the first time since 1986, having also missed out on Euro 2016.

Didier Deschamps' men can take a giant step towards booking their place at the World Cup in Russian Federation next summer with a victory in Sofia, with second-placed Sweden hosting lowly Luxembourg a point behind.

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Italy now sit second in their qualifying group, three points behind Spain with just two matches remaining. The fans might well be disappointed but we must have their support at a time of need like this.

With time running out, Holland took the lead again through a penalty from Arjen Robben on 84 minutes before Memphis Depay made it 3-1 with a free-kick in stoppage time.

The hosts were off to a flying start to the second half, but they saw Bozhidar Kraev yellow carded in the 62nd minute for a late sliding challenge on Raphaël Varane. Portugal needed Cristiano Ronaldo special strike to break the shackles after 63rd minute. Ukraine revived its World Cup hopes and set up a pivotal tie with Croatia in the Group I when it defied rain-soaked conditions to win 2-0 away to bottom side Kosovo the same day.

"Thank God that he scored", said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.

That result meant that France went into their match with Bulgaria two points behind the Swedes at the top of the Group.

Brighton midfielder Davy Propper put the Oranje ahead against Belarus on 24 minutes, but defender Maksim Valadzko levelled 10 minutes into the second half. With one match left to play, Bulgaria finds itself seven points from the second spot in Uefa qualifying group A, which offers a spot in the play-off round.

Greece now lead Bosnia by two points and face minnows Gibraltar on Tuesday, but even if they finish second they could still face the possibility of missing out on the playoffs.

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