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Moment of Mbappe magic seals France victory as Ronaldo-less Portugal win comfortably

Belgium were also among the European heavyweights to record Nations League opener wins.

sweden-france-nations-league-soccer Mbappe en route to scoring. Source: Christine Olsson/TT

KYLIAN MBAPPE SCORED with France’s only shot on goal in Solna to give the world champions a 1-0 victory over Sweden in the opening round of matches in the Nations League.

Mbappe picked up the ball wide of the goal in the 41st minute, squeezed past two defenders, waited for goalkeeper Robin Olsen to go down and then clipped the ball just inside the post from the narrowest of angles.

The strike was enough to give France victory in a cagey opener in Group 3 of the elite League A in the competition. 

Sweden managed just three strikes on target in the 90 minutes, though one of those was a deflection off French defender Dayot Upemecano that Hugo Lloris had to save.

Antoine Griezmann had a chance to double the French lead with the last kick of the game after Anthony Martial was fouled in the box, but the Barcelona attacker blasted the penalty high.

For France’s first match since they beat Albania last November, manager Didier Deschamps recalled Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot for his first appearance since he refused to serve as a standby for the 2018 World Cup.

France face Croatia in a rematch of the 2018 World Cup final at the Stade de France in Paris on Tuesday while Sweden take on the fourth team in the group, Portugal, winners of the inaugural Nations League, in Solna. 

The holders also enjoyed a winning start to their Nations League campaign, shrugging off the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo to thrash Croatia 4-1. Ronaldo was missing due to an infected toe — caused by a bee sting according to Italian media — but the hosts were still too good for a disappointing Croatia in Porto.

Joao Cancelo — Diogo Jota, with his first international goal — Joao Felix and Bernardo Silva were all on target for Portugal who also hit the woodwork three times.

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league-of-nations-portugal-vs-croatia Action from the game. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Croatia were without Luca Modric and Ivan Rakitic who boast a total of 233 caps between them. Bruno Petkovic grabbed a stoppage-time consolation for the visitors.

Elsewhere, top-ranked Belgium defeated Denmark 2-0 in Copenhagen, handing the Danes a first home loss in four years and an opening defeat for new coach Kasper Hjulmand.

Belgium, without the retired Vincent Kompany and Kevin de Bruyne who was attending the birth of his third child, were in front after just nine minutes.

Lyon defender Jason Denayer tucked away his first international goal from Dries Mertens’ free-kick.

Mertens added the second in the 77th minute when the Napoli striker pounced on a loose ball after Kasper Schmeichel had blocked a Youri Tielmans effort with his legs.

Earlier today, England were 1-0 winners over Iceland after some late drama.

© – AFP, 2020 

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