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The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

ASEARING first-half strike from Paul Pogba handed France a 10 win at ri­vals the Nether­lands as Bel­gium and Por­tu­gal clocked up 6-0 vic­to­ries and Chris­tian Ben­teke grabbed a slice of World Cup qual­i­fy­ing his­tory.

Crit­i­cised by coach Di­dier Deschamps for his per­for­mance in Fri­day’s 4-1 win over Bul­garia in Paris, the world’s most ex­pen­sive foot­baller em­phat­i­cally replied with a tow­er­ing dis­play for Les Bleus in Am­s­ter­dam in the most eye-catch­ing fix­ture yes­ter­day.

The Manch­ester United mid­fielder’s pow­er­ful strike from 25m out af­ter half an hour left div­ing Dutch goal­keeper Maarten Steke­len­burg able to get his hands to the fizzing ball but un­able to stop it.

“I didn’t speak to him (Pogba), I just said a few words to him be­fore en­ter­ing the chang­ing rooms, ‘I have con­fi­dence in you,’” said Deschamps.

“The match con­firms what he is able to do. Pogba was much bet­ter in ev­ery­thing he did. He showed what he can do.

“We never doubted he could do it. We mustn’t for­get Paul is rel­a­tively young and he can still progress.”

France, los­ing fi­nal­ists on home soil at Euro 2016, are equal on seven points at the top of Group A with Swe­den, who beat Bul­garia 3-0 at home in Solna. The two coun­tries will play on Nov 11 at the Stade de France.

Pogba, 23, was im­pe­ri­ous in front of a cen­tral de­fence made up of Raphael Varane and Lau­rent Ko­scielny, who pushed back wave af­ter wave of Dutch at­tacks.

And Pogba nearly dou­bled his ac­count with a header off a Dim­itri Payet cor­ner on 66 min­utes just lack­ing power.

“If the team has a good match, I have a good match,” said a de­fi­ant Pogba. “If it’s a bad match, I have a bad match.

“We’re not go­ing to talk about in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances. It’s true it’s not al­ways nice to hear crit­i­cism, ‘bad things’ about my­self. There wasn’t any an­swer. To­day it was a good team ef­fort.”

The French had a slight scare in the fi­nal minute but Hugo Lloris did well to keep out a Mem­phis De­pay ef­fort on the line.

“It’s an im­por­tant win for us, even if we could have had a larger lead,” said Deschamps.

“We could have hurt them more in the first half. It’s good to have got these two vic­to­ries.”

The Dutch failed to make it to the Eu­ros and now sit third in the group, need­ing to im­prove fast if they are to make it to Rus­sia in 2018.

“Our goal­keeper made a mis­take which he never makes in train­ing,” said coach Danny Blind.

“We played bet­ter in the sec­ond half and we should have had at least a point be­cause we had chances at the end of the match.”

Bel­gium and Por­tu­gal went on goal sprees against min­nows Gi­bral­tar and the Faroe Is­lands.

Bel­gium striker Ben­teke set a new World Cup record for the fastest goal ever – just seven sec­onds – on his way to a hat­trick in Faro.

Bel­gium top Group H on nine points out of nine, ahead of Greece on goal dif­fer­ence.

The 25-year-old Crys­tal Palace for­ward picked up the ball in the first ac­tion in Faro and rac­ing to­wards goal with the Gi­bral­tar de­fence in dis­ar­ray left goalie Deren Ibrahim with no chance.

Ben­teke’s quick-fire goal eclipsed the pre­vi­ous best of 8.3 sec­onds achieved by San Marino’s Da­vide Gualtieri in a World Cup qual­i­fier against Eng­land in 1993.

Por­tu­gal, bid­ding to catch Group B lead­ers Switzer­land, matched their 6-0 win over An­dorra on Fri­day.

An­dre Silva scored a hat­trick for the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons be­fore cap­tain Cris­tiano Ron­aldo net­ted his fifth goal in four days, with Joao Cancelo and Joao Moutinho also scor­ing late on.

Switzer­land main­tained their un­beaten run, com­ing away 2-1 win­ners from An­dorra with Fabian Schaer and Ad­mir Mehmedi scor­ing in ei­ther half. – AFP

France mid­fielder Paul Pogba (3rd left) in ac­tion dur­ing yes­ter­day’s World Cup 2018 qual­i­fier against Nether­lands at the Arena Sta­dion in Am­s­ter­dam. –

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