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World Cup Qualifying: Ronaldo saves Portugal, France almost through

An uninspiring international match day.

Andorra v Portugal - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

France had to overcome Bulgaria, who were at that point unbeaten at home, after a sensational 8-0 Sweden victory over Luxembourg to ensure a smooth qualification to the 2018 World Cup hosted in Russia.

Just by looking at the lineup, you could have guessed what the main problem for France will be. Didier Deschamps continues to roll out baffling midfields. The lack of true holding midfielder is what France desperately lacks and it might very well cost them at the 2018 World Cup.

Nevertheless, France started on a strong foot, as Matuidi scored an absolute beauty just two minutes into the match. Lacazette, who is now the starting striker since Deschamps continues to reject Benzema, released Digne down the left flank and Griezmann's delicate touch set up Matuidi for the goal.

France continued to assert dominance, but not in the same sense as Spain or Germany do. They were unable to consistently break Bulgaria down with patient buildup play, because Bulgaria was very compact and kept the space between lines to a bare minimum. Therefore, France's biggest chances of the night came from quick counterattacks lead mainly by Kylian Mbappé.

Around the 30 minute mark, Bulgaria started to come out of their shells and France panicked. Hugo Lloris made an awkward save which lead to a golden chance for the home team. However, Lloris redeemed himself just a few seconds later when he saved a point-blank header from Delev.

At the start of the second half, Bulgaria tried to put pressure on France's backline and while they produced some semi-dangerous chances, nothing really came out of it. France eventually recovered, but to say that they were uninspiring was an understatement.

The second half progressed at a snail's pace due to lack of precision from both sides, quality chances and overall dullness of the match. If France wants to be considered as one of the main favourites for the title, they need to take a good look at their tactics and personnel.

After the final whistle, the scoreline was 1-0 for France, which meant that France moved back to the first position in their group.

Before the game, Varane spoke with the press and share his thoughts on last summer and his position in Real Madrid:

“It's fair to say that a lot of things have happened to me over the past few months. There were some dark times but in June 2016 we spoke to the club about my future and they put forward a very interesting offer, one which was in line with what I was hoping for.”

“I don't see anything negative about being a one-club player; that was what was on my mind when I renewed my contract in 2014. Madrid is a massive club; I'm not putting any limits on myself.”

“I've never had any complaints about the playing time I have been given. And apart from that, I have been given other responsibilities. It's important to feel as though you mean something for the team and that is how it is for me.”

In the Group B, Portugal had to win to keep a chance of winning the group and directly qualifying to the World Cup. So, it came as a bit of a surprise that Cristiano Ronaldo was benched.

Portugal struggled for 45 mins to score a goal. And if you need a goal, what do you do? Yes, you put Ronaldo on the pitch and wait.

46th minute: Ronaldo comes on the pitch

63rd minute: Ronaldo... (well, I guess you already know how it plays out...)

And it the 86th minute, Ronaldo helped to set up AC Milan's Andre Silva for the second goal of the match.

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