Antoine Griezmann was at the double as France brushed aside Finland at Parc Olympique Lyonnais to end a run of five games without victory and take control of Group D in World Cup qualification.
In the absence of the injured Kylian Mbappe, the Atletico Madrid star was back to his best after a poor run of form and opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a delightful first-time effort after intricate build-up play.
Griezmann grabbed his second of the game eight minutes after the restart with a finish from an improbable angle, and just minutes later he came agonisingly close to a hat-trick following a majestic passage of one-touch passing.
Karim Benzema, making a return to his home city in the French colours, almost got the goal his excellent performance deserved late on but was denied by Finnish goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky
After back-to-back draws to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine in qualifying, Didier Deschamps moved to a back-three and the tactical change sparked a major improvement as Les Bleus eased to a comfortable victory.
Victory moves France seven points clear at the top of the group although they have played a game more than second-placed Ukraine and two more than Finland in third.
TALKING POINT – GRIEZMANN STARS AS DESCHAMPS SWITCHES IT UP
Didier Deschamps has received a fair amount of criticism during a five-game winless streak that included a penalty shootout defeat in the European Championships to Switzerland, but credit where its due, he made the necessary tactical readjustments and it worked a delight.
Setting up in a 3-4-1-2, Deschamps handed a debut to Theo Hernandez at left wing-back, but it was Griezmann who was the real difference-maker, banishing any suggestions he could not play with Benzema. In fact, the two formed an almost telepathic connection at times as they carved the Finland defence apart time and again.
The goals moved Griezmann level with Michel Michel Platini as the nation’s third-highest goalscorer on 41, and at the age of just 30, he is now just 10 strikes off Thierry Henry’s record of 51.
MAN OF THE MATCH – ANTOINE GRIEZMANN (FRANCE)
- Withh three wins and three draws, France have not lost any of their first six qualifying matches for a major tournament (World Cup + EURO) for the first time since the 2006 World Cup qualifiers.
- Antoine Griezmann scored against Finland his 40th and 41st goals with France, joining Michel Platini as the third best scorer in the history of the French team.
- Paul Pogba won possession back 17 times against Finland, the highest tally for a French team player since Pogba himself against Spain in September 2014 (18).