France produced an economical if unspectacular performance to defeat Kazakhstan 2-0 and get their World Cup qualification campaign properly underway.
The World champions were held by Ukraine in their opening encounter in midweek, despite Antoine Griezmann’s fantastic goal, and there was pressure on.
And in another changed line-up from Didier Deschamps, they did just enough to get the points against a side that made things difficult throughout.
Deschamps went with Anthony Martial and Ousmane Dembele in the wide positions, the former having not scored a goal for his country in five years.
But they combined to good effect for the opening goal. Martial fashioned space on the edge of the area and slipped the ball wide to Dembele, who steadied himself before lashing an excellent finish into the far corner.
Martial was denied a goal of his own soon after thanks to Sergey Maliy’s inspired goal line clearance, but his joy was short-lived.
From the resulting corner, Maliy grappled with Paul Pogba and inadvertently nodded the ball past his own goalkeeper for the second goal.
Deschamps introduced Kylian Mbappe in the second half but their play didn’t get much more fluent, as much as the PSG man was desperate to make an impact.
And indeed with 20 minutes remaining he won a penalty after being brought down inside the area, but after stepping up himself Mbappe was denied by Alexandr Mokin, who pushed the kick away.
France were never under any threat in the contest, with Kazakhstan landing just a single shot on target, but it was a far from dominant display on a tricky plastic surface.
A hardcore football fan, Kofi Blay is also a social media strategist and data analyst.