Nations League: France extend unbeaten run against Croatia

On target
Kylian Mbappe nets France's winner. Photo: Reuters
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Zagreb: France stretched their unbeaten run against Croatia to eight games after a late goal by Kylian Mbappe gave the world champions a 2-1 win in their Nations League top-tier Group 3 match on Wednesday.

The result left France second in the group on 10 points from four games, behind Portugal on goal difference after the European champions brushed aside Sweden 3-0. Croatia have three points and the Swedes none.

France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup final before defeating them by the same score in last month's reverse Nations League fixture.

Antoine Griezmann fired France into an eighth-minute lead when he drilled the ball home off the underside of the bar from 12 metres after Domagoj Vida failed to clear a Ferland Mendy cross from the right.

Mbappe missed a gilt-edged opportunity to make it 2-0 as he shot wide from close range with the goal at his mercy, while visiting keeper Hugo Lloris kept out Mario Pasalic's shot from three metres with a reflex save.

Croatia midfielder Nikola Vlasic equalised in the 65th minute, unleashing a sublime shot with the outside of his foot past Lloris after good work by Luka Modric and Josip Brekalo.

Substitute Paul Pogba missed a sitter for France before the visitors secured victory 11 minutes from time.

It was a crafty three-touch move as Pogba found Lucas Digne with a long pass from inside his own half and the left back volleyed a cross into the penalty area for Mbappe to slide in and steer the ball past keeper Dominik Livakovic.

Italy extended their unbeaten run to 19 games with a 1-1 draw at home to the Netherlands although they were knocked off the top of their group in the process.

Lorenzo Pellegrini put Italy ahead in the 16th minute of an entertaining game but Donny van de Beek levelled nine minutes later as the Dutch ended a run of three games without scoring.

Italy, with six points from four games, were overtaken at the top of League A Group One by Poland who beat Bosnia 3-0 and have seven. The Dutch are third with five.

The match was staged in Bergamo, where Italy last played in 2006, as a tribute to the northern city which was at the epicentre this year of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.

The hosts, who have won 14 games and drawn five since their defeat in Portugal in September 2018, went ahead with their first real attack.

Nicolo Barella's diagonal crossfield pass found Pellegrini who collected the ball in his stride and clipped his shot past Jasper Cillessen.

Barella, who has flourished under Mancini's leadership, was again Italy's top player as he repeatedly opened up the Dutch defence.

Italy threatened from a similar move but, just as they seemed to be getting on top, the Dutch equalised.

Frenkie de Jong broke down the left and crossed, Memphis Depay's shot was blocked and Van de Beek reacted quickly to fire the rebound into the top of the net.

The game could have gone either way in an end-to-end second half but neither side could put the finishing touch to their approach work.



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