France failed to bounce back from their surprise Euro 2020 elimination as they were held to a 1-1 draw in 2022 World Cup qualifying by Bosnia-Herzegovina, finishing with 10 men.
Les Bleus, who went out in the last 16 of the European Championship after a shock penalty shoot-out loss to Switzerland, fell behind to Edin Dzeko’s 36th-minute strike in Strasbourg on Wednesday but were quickly back on terms following a fortuitous goal for Antoine Griezmann.
Didier Deschamps’ side would have been expecting to push on for a win to go six points clear of second-placed Ukraine, who drew 2-2 with Kazakhstan earlier on Wednesday, in the second half of the Group D clash.
However, after a deadline-day switch from Sevilla to Chelsea failed to materialise, Jules Kounde was shown a red card for a lunge on Sead Kolasinac following a VAR check and France had to settle for a point.
Kylian Mbappe missed the decisive penalty against Switzerland but went close to getting back on the scoresheet when his effort from the tightest of angles crashed behind off the near post in the 27th minute.
Miralem Pjanic warmed the gloves of Hugo Lloris before Dezko seized upon a wayward Thomas Lemar pass and drilled a fine 20-yard effort through Presnel Kimpembe’s legs and into the bottom-right corner.
France were somewhat lucky to restore parity three minutes later. Dzeko headed a corner against Griezmann’s back and following a VAR check it was clear Ibrahim Sehic had failed to keep the ball out after a slight touch off Dennis Hadzikadunic.
Aurelien Tchouameni was sent on for his debut at half-time but France’s plan was thrown into disarray following Kounde’s late tackle on Kolasinac, who had to be replaced by Eldar Civic.
Bosnia had a couple of chances to steal a famous win, but Smail Prevljak and Pjanic were unable to find the target with their efforts inside the final five minutes.
What does it mean? No rest for France attack
Ahead of three games in seven days, Deschamps would have been hoping to get started with a win so his star forwards did not have to be worked too hard.
However, after all the attention surrounding his future and the interest of Real Madrid this week, Mbappe was not up to his usual standards and finished with one shot and one key pass.
Griezmann, who completed a deadline-day return to Atletico Madrid from Barcelona, did find the net but he created nothing for his team-mates, while Karim Benzema’s only shot on target was a tame deflected effort that Sehic held easily.
They may now have to be called upon against Ukraine and Finland.
Miralem makes France Pjanic
His club career may have stalled since joining Barcelona, but Pjanic was essential for Bosnia. His 42 passes in the opposition half were only bettered by Paul Pogba (46), though his passing accuracy in that area was far superior (86 per cent to 76 per cent). He also put in nine crosses and contested 11 duels in an all-action display.
Defensive blues for France
They may be the reigning world champions, but France fell behind for the fourth game in succession. It is the first time that has happened in Deschamps’ nine-year tenure.
France take on Ukraine in Kiev on Saturday, and three points would be a huge boost to their hopes of achieving automatic qualification. Bosnia have a friendly against Kuwait before taking on Kazakhstan next week.
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