Pogba's swirling shot hands France win over Dutch

Pogba hit his shot from midway between the halfway line and the edge of the Dutch penalty area and it swerved wickedly to fox goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who might have done better with his diving effort as he tried to save it.

Paul Pogba, France v Netherlands, World Cup qualifiers

France's Paul Pogba celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Netherlands in a World Cup qualifying match in Amsterdam on Monday.   -  AP

France lived up to its billing as favorite in World Cup qualifying Group A by beating the Netherlands 1-0 Monday, thanks to a long-range strike by midfielder Paul Pogba and a late save by Hugo Lloris.

Sweden, meanwhile, continued to show it can play without retired superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, going level on points at the top of the group by registering its second victory in qualifying for the 2018 tournament in Russia, beating Bulgaria 3-0.

READ: >Benteke scores fastest goal in a WC qualifier

European Championship runner-up France looked dangerous throughout the match at the Amsterdam Arena, with Pogba bossing the midfield and the searing pace of right back Djibril Sidibe and powerful runs of Moussa Sissoko and Kevin Gameiro proving a menace.

While Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg looked like he could have kept out Pogba’s goal, his good saves kept the score down in the second half.

Both teams were coming off 4-1 victories on Friday, the Netherlands’ attack making up for the team’s continuing defensive frailties against Belarus while France easily overcame Bulgaria as Gameiro scored his first international goals in more than five years.

But the Dutch, already missing experienced stars Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben to injuries, suffered an early setback when Quincy Promes, who scored twice on Friday, limped off and was replaced by Memphis Depay just 16 minutes in.

Without Promes’ pace, the Dutch rarely looked likely to break down the experienced France defense and already looks to be struggling to reach the World Cup with just one team automatically qualifying from each group.


In Amsterdam, France underscored its pedigree with an early assault on the Dutch goal, but after weathering that storm the Netherlands exerted pressure of its own, looking a far more confident team since its 4-1 victory over Belarus.

But the Dutch defense’s curse of giving away the ball in dangerous positions struck again in the 31st when Jeffrey Bruma’s loose pass was intercepted by Laurent Koscielny who quickly fed Pogba. Netherlands captain Kevin Strootman gave the Manchester United star far too much time and space and Pogba unleashed a powerful drive from 30 meters that Stekelenburg could only defledt on its way into the back of the net.

Ten minutes later, the Netherlands looked to have a very strong case for a penalty that could have cancelled out Pogba’s strike. Tottenham Hotspur striker Vincent Janssen twisted and turned in the penalty area before firing a low shot that Arsenal defender Koscielny slid to block, sending the ball bouncing onto his arm. Dutch players appealed in vain as referee Damir Skomina refused to give a spot kick.

As the Netherlands pressed forward in search of an equalizer in the second half, it was France which carved out the best chances.

Gameiro should have doubled France’s lead in the 55th minute, skillfully controlling a long pass by Pogba, but seeing Stekelenburg block his shot.

Stekelenburg then denied Pogba his second of the night, saving well after Pogba powerfully headed a Dimitri Payet corner.


In Solna, Ola Toivonen and Oscar Hiljemark both scored late in the first half and Victor Lindelof made it 3-0 in the 58th as Bulgaria lurched to its second straight defeat.

The win means France and Sweden remain the only unbeaten sides in Group A.

In the night’s other group match, Belarus took the lead in the 80th and Luxembourg equalized five minutes later in a 1-1 draw.

Results: 2018 WC qualifiers:

Group A:

At Borisov: Belarus 1 (Savitskiy 80) Luxembourg 1 (Joachim 85)

At Solna: Sweden 3 (Toivonen 39, Hiljemark 45, Nilsson-LindelŮf 58) Bulgaria 0

At Amsterdam: Netherlands 0 France 1 (Pogba 30)

Group B:

At Riga: Latvia 0 Hungary 2 (Gyurcso 10, Szalai 77)

At Andorra: Andorra 1 (Martinez 90+1) Switzerland 2 (Schaer 19-pen, Mehmedi 77)

At Torshavn: Faroe Islands 0 Portugal 6 (Silva 12, 22, 37, Cristiano Ronaldo 65, Moutinho 90+1, Cancelo 90+3)

Group H:

At Tallinn: Estonia 0 Greece 2 (Torosidis 1, Stafylidis 61)

At Zenica: Bosnia-Herzegovina 2 (Dzeko 70, 80) Cyprus 0

At Faro: Gibraltar 0 Belgium 6 (Benteke 1, 43, 55, Witsel 19, Mertens 51, Hazard 79)

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