10-man France held by Bosnia and Luxembourg defeat Azerbaijan in Ireland's group

It finished 1-1.

Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring his goal for France.
Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring his goal for France.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

WORLD CUP HOLDERS France needed a scrappy Antoine Griezmann equaliser before holding on with 10 men to draw 1-1 with Bosnia and Herzegovina as they resumed their campaign to qualify for the 2022 finals in Qatar.

Edin Dzeko gave Bosnia a first-half lead in the Group D clash in Strasbourg on Wednesday but soon after his headed clearance ricocheted back off Griezmann and just crossed the line to restore parity.

France were then handicapped by the 51st-minute sending-off of Sevilla defender Jules Kounde for a terrible tackle on Arsenal’s Sead Kolasinac.

The frustrating result, following their disappointing last-16 exit at Euro 2020, nevertheless keeps France on course to top Group D and qualify automatically for the next World Cup.

They have eight points from four games, four more than second-placed Ukraine, who drew 2-2 in Kazakhstan on Wednesday and who host France in Kiev at the weekend.

Both Kounde’s red card and the Griezmann goal brought into sharp focus the belated introduction of VAR by UEFA for the World Cup qualifiers — it was not in use in the first three rounds of matches in March but has now been hastily implemented across the continent.

Griezmann’s goal was shown to have crossed the line, despite the efforts of Bosnian goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic to claw it away, after the Swiss officials reviewed the images.

Kounde had initially been shown a yellow card for his reckless tackle on Kolasinac but that was upgraded to red on review.

It was a disappointing night for France but they were perhaps not helped by having two of their most important players distracted by transfers — one that happened and one that did not — right up to Tuesday’s deadline.

Kylian Mbappe ended up staying at Paris Saint-Germain despite Real Madrid’s offensive to bring him to the Bernabeu.

Griezmann, meanwhile, made a late loan switch from Barcelona back to his old club Atletico Madrid, a move that was not confirmed until the early hours of Wednesday.

They both started in France’s first outing since Mbappe’s miss from the spot saw them go out to Switzerland in a shoot-out in Bucharest in the European Championship.

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Elsewhere in Group A, Ireland’s opponents on Saturday, Azerbaijan, lost 2-1 to Luxembourg.  Goals from Mica and Gerson Rodriguez gave Luxembourg a 2-0 interval lead before Emin Makhmudov pulled a second-half goal back for Azerbaijan.

In Group G, Norway drew 1-1 with Netherlands, Erling Braut Haaland giving the Norwegians the lead in the 20th minute before Davy Klaasen equalised in the 37th minute.

© – AFP, 2021

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