A spectacular self-assisted volley from Olivier Giroud lost the headlines after France goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris gifted Sweden a last-minute winner to secure a memorable 2-1 victory over the Euro 2016 finalists.
Unbeknown to France, they had the opportunity to move six points clear at the summit of World Cup Qualifying Group A after Bulgaria’s shock 2-1 loss away to Belarus but instead found themselves slipping into second on goal difference, behind tonight’s opponents Sweden.
The first half consisted of very few chances for either side but those that were created were taken with precision. Giroud, just minutes after failing to convert Benjamin Mendy’s cross from six yards, set himself up just inside the box, after Sweden failed to clear a corner, and bulleted his effort past an onlooking Robin Olsen into the top right corner.
Giroud’s 17th goal in as many starts for his country came as a shock for Sweden, who were arguably the better side for the opening 45 minutes. Janne Anderrson’s side, however, did not lie down. A troubling counter-attack resulted in Marcus Berg’s delivery float over Mendy’s head before finding itself at the feet of Jimmy Durmaz, whose first-time shot curled into the bottom corner.
The second half was the polar opposite. A 45-minute period filled with opportunities for both sides to take all three points, but failing to do so with any conviction.
Sweden returned from the interval with positivity and skipper Andreas Granqvist almost prodded the ball into the net from close range after a lofted set piece from the halfway line.
A plethora of chances then presented themselves to the attacking force of France, with Antoine Griezmann having his header saved from close range and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba’s looping effort narrowly evading the top right corner before Olsen was forced to make a save at full stretch to deny Griezmann from a 30-yard free kick.
The game remained in the balance, though, and Durmaz and Emil Forsberg continued to provide a threat for the Swedes on the counter-attack. Durmaz’s attempted cross almost caught Hugo Lloris off guard but the goalkeeper managed to palm away the goal-bound effort and then tipped Forsberg’s acute free-kick over the crossbar.
With the added firepower of Thomas Lemar and Kylian Mbappé from the bench, France spent the final 20 minutes of the match camped inside the final third but could not find a way past a sturdy Sweden defence, marshalled by Benfica’s Victor Lindelöf.
That was until the final minute when a lapse of concentration from Lloris ended with a poor clearance to the feet of Ola Toivonen, who managed to plant the ball in an empty net from the halfway line to give Sweden just their second win over France since 1969.