An Ousmane Dembele strike and an own goal gave France a 2-0 victory over Kazakhstan in Astana on Sunday afternoon, as Didier Deschamps’ men secured their first win in Group D of World Cup qualifying.
In a first half devoid of chances for the most part, it was the visitors that broke the deadlock on 19 minutes. Anthony Martial turned well in midfield before releasing Dembele, who coolly finished into the bottom corner past a despairing Aleksandr Mokin.
Les Bleus managed to double their lead just before the half-time whistle when Serhiy Malyi – who had just forced a corner with one of the best goal-line clearances you’re ever likely to see – headed into his own net from the subsequent Antoine Griezmann delivery.
The action didn’t get much more thrilling after the break, but Kylian Mbappe’s introduction on the hour mark changed the complexion of the game with an added vigour. The Paris Saint Germain star eventually won a penalty in the 75th minute with some wonderful feet, but frustratingly had his spot kick saved by 39-year old Mokin.
Hugo Lloris (GK) – 6/10 – Had one dodgy touch early on but kept a cool head throughout and was hardly called upon.
Leo Dubois (RB) – 6/10 – Solid enough defensively, stifling some decent moves down Kazakhstan’s left, but failed to impose himself upfield at all – Benjamin Pavard’s creativity from right-back was clearly missed.
Kurt Zouma (CB) – 6/10 – Didn’t have the toughest of games, to say the least. Managed his counterparts well physically but barely had a tackle to make.
Clement Lenglet (CB) – 7/10 – Showcased his attacking mindset throughout, often playing high up the pitch and nipping in to win the ball in midfield while maintaining a 95% pass accuracy to set moves away.
Lucas Digne (LB) – 7/10 – Got up and down the left brilliantly and forced his way in behind on a couple of occasions, making two key passes. His work rate and commitment will be most pleasing to Deschamps.
Paul Pogba (CM) – 7/10 – Was his side’s main creative force, playing a lovely piercing ball into Martial to start the move for the opener while also forcing the own goal for 2-0 by tussling with Malyi from the corner.
Tanguy Ndombele (CM) – 7/10 – Sat deep for the most part but played the holding role well, making several important ball recoveries and having the composure to bypass the hosts’ press with good passing.
Antoine Griezmann (AM) – 6/10 – Worked hard and created space well with his fluid movement but really struggled to get into things and stamp his mark on proceedings. Left the field without registering a key pass.
Ousmane Dembele (RW) – 6/10 – Couldn’t handle Kazakhstan’s skin-tight marking and defending and lost the ball more often than taking it past his man. Did finish well to get the opener, though.
Anthony Martial (ST) – 5/10 – Claimed a good assist for France’s opener but that’s where the praise ends. Seemed to slow the play down every time he was in possession, didn’t look interested in pressing and lacked creativity and drive with his movement.
Thomas Lemar (LW) – 7/10 – Spent most of his time in central areas as he played with unrestrained freedom. Really managed to influence the game with clever movement and progressive touches, playing two key passes.
Kylian Mbappe (ST) – 7/10 – Changed the intensity of the game single-handedly. The PSG man was a constant problem for the opposition, registering three shots on target and, although missing the penalty he won, was France’s most threatening prospect.
Adrien Rabiot (CM) – 6/10
Wissam Ben Yedder (AM) – 6/10
Moussa Sissoko (CM) – N/A
Kingsley Coman (RW) – N/A