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Matuidi puts France in control of their World Cup destiny

France's Corentin Tolisso in action with Bulgaria’s Petar Zanev

Blaise Matuidi’s early goal was enough to take France to the brink of the World Cup finals as they secured a 1-0 away win against Bulgaria on Saturday.

Les Bleus top Group A with 20 points, one ahead of Sweden who crushed Luxembourg 8-0, and they will qualify directly for next year’s World Cup in Russia if they beat Belarus at home in their final game on Tuesday.

Sweden next travel to the Netherlands.

France are assured of at least a playoff place, with the best eight second-placed teams going through to the two-legged playoffs.

Matuidi struck after three minutes with a fine angled shot and Bulgaria had their best chance denied by Hugo Lloris before halftime.

“It was a complicated game with a lot of fouls and aggression. We did not play a good second half as we did not get an opportunity,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.

“The essential is there but we are able to do better. However, I was confident (that we would qualify for the World Cup) before the game, and I am even more confident now.”

“We knew that Sweden were ahead of us before the start since they played earlier so we knew what we had to do. We did not always play well but we were solid,” added France captain Lloris.

With Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann in support of Alexandre Lacazette up front but three defensive midfielders behind them, France lacked creativity throughout.

Les Bleus, however, got off to a dream start with Griezmann setting up Matuidi inside the box, allowing the Juventus midfielder to fire home from an acute angle. It was his ninth goal in 59 games for France.

N’Golo Kante limped off the pitch shortly after the half-hour with an apparent thigh injury and was replaced by Adrien Rabiot.

Bulgaria threatened in the 37th minute after some clever play on the right flank but Lloris parried away Georgi Kostadinov’s point-blank-range header with a superb save.

Bulgaria pushed harder in the second half but France were always in control as they snatched their first away win against Bulgaria since 1932.

The victory was the 42nd for Deschamps since he took over the national team from Laurent Blanc in 2012 — the most wins by any France coach.

Summaries from tSaturday, October 7
Belarus 1 Maksim Volodko 55
Netherlands 3 Davy Proepper 24, Arjen Robben 84pen, Memphis Depay 90+3

– – –
Bulgaria 0
France 1 Blaise Matuidi 3

– – –
Andorra 0
Portugal 2 Cristiano Ronaldo 63, Andre Silva 86

– – –
Switzerland 5 Granit Xhaka 18, Fabian Frei 20, Steven Zuber 43,49, Stephan Lichtsteiner 83
Hungary 2 Richard Guzmics 58, Roland Ugrai 89

– – –
Cyprus 1 Pieros Sotiriou 18
Greece 2 Kostantinos Mitroglou 24, Alexandros Tziolis 26

– – –
Sweden 8 Andreas Granqvist 10pen,67pen, Marcus Berg 18,37,54,71, Mikael Lustig 60, Ola Toivonen 76
Luxembourg 0

– – –
Faroe Islands 0
Latvia 0

– – –
Bosnia 3 Haris Medunjanin 30, Edin Visca 39, Dario Dumic 82
Belgium 4 Thomas Meunier 4, Michy Batshuayi 59, Jan Vertonghen 68, Yannick Carrasco 83

– – –
Gibraltar 0
Estonia 6 Siim Luts 10, Mattias Kaeit 30, Sergei Zenjov 38, Joonas Tamm 52,65,77
Halftime: 0-3;Attendance: 712
– – –

– – –
Next Fixtures:
Sunday, October 8
Czech Republic v San Marino (2145)
Germany v Azerbaijan (2145)
Norway v Northern Ireland (2145)
Denmark v Romania (1900)
Kazakhstan v Armenia (1900)
Poland v Montenegro (1900)
Lithuania v England (1900)
Slovakia v Malta (1900)
Slovenia v Scotland (1900)
Monday, October 9
Moldova v Austria (2145)
Serbia v Georgia (2145)
Wales v Ireland (2145)
Albania v Italy (2145)
Macedonia v Liechtenstein (2145)
Israel v Spain (2145)
Finland v Turkey (2145)
Iceland v Kosovo (2145)
Ukraine v Croatia (2145)

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