Payet shines as France beat Swe­den

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

France mid­fielder Dim­itri Payet scored the win­ner af­ter set­ting up the equaliser in a 2-1 vic­tory over Swe­den in a top-of-the-ta­ble clash as they opened up a three-point lead in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing Group A at the Stade de France on Fri­day.

The vis­i­tors went ahead in the 54th minute through Emil Fors­berg be­fore Paul Pogba and Payet hit back with goals in the 58th and 65th min­utes re­spec­tively to put France on 10 points ahead of Swe­den af­ter four games.

The Nether­lands, who travel to Lux­em­bourg on Sun­day, are in third place on four points.

A minute’s silence was held be­fore kick­off to mark the first an­niver­sary of the Paris at­tacks that killed 130 peo­ple on Fri­day Nov. 13 when bars, restau­rants and the stadium where Les Bleus were play­ing a friendly against Ger­many were tar­geted.

French pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, who was also at the France v Ger­many game last year, at­tended Fri­day’s match along with in­vited pres­i­dents of the French Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs.

“We have to re­mem­ber. One year ago, al­most to the day, we were here for a friendly game and three bombs were det­o­nated, with one man be­ing killed,” Hol­lande told French TV.

“We have to re­mem­ber there were 130 peo­ple who died and hun­dreds of oth­ers who were in­jured. For them and for those who sur­vived we must re­mem­ber.”

Se­cu­rity was tight, with some 1,200 stew­ards and 400 po­lice of­fi­cers de­ployed in and around the stadium but there were no in­ci­dents re­ported.

Swe­den, who lost their back­bone af­ter goal­keeper An­dreas Isaks­son, mid­fielder Kim Kall­strom and tal­is­manic striker Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic all retired from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball, still proved a tough nut to crack.

France pressed high, leav­ing lit­tle breath­ing space for the Swedes, who looked danger­ous on set pieces.

Les Bleus had their first clear chance in the 15th minute when Payet’s curled shot was par­ried away by Robin Olsen.

How­ever, af­ter a lively open­ing 20 min­utes, France faded while Swe­den grew into the game, threat­en­ing with a cou­ple of sharp counter at­tacks.

The vis­i­tors went ahead nine min­utes into the sec­ond half, when Fors­berg’s 25me­tre free kick flew past keeper Hugo Lloris. France re­acted swiftly, how­ever, with Pogba head­ing home from Payet’s free kick four min­utes later. In the 65th, Olsen fum­bled a cross into the path of Payet, who coolly turned the ball home to give France the points. Swe­den next face Be­larus on March 25 when France, who host Ivory Coast in a friendly on Tues­day, visit Lux­em­bourg.— Reuters

SAINT-DE­NIS: French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande (L) shakes hands with the newly elected pres­i­dent of the French Pro­fes­sion­nal Foot­ball League Nathalie Boy De La Tour (R) dur­ing the 2018 World Cup group A qual­i­fy­ing foot­ball match be­tween France and Swe­den at the Stade de France in Saint-De­nis, north of Paris, on Fri­day. — AFP

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