France remain rooted to the bottom of their Nations League group and in dire form as they extended their winless streak to four games with a 1-0 defeat to Croatia on Monday.
Croatia were gifted the winner from the penalty spot as Ibrahima Konate tripped up Ante Budimir at a corner to allow Luka Modric to convert past Mike Maignan for the game’s only goal.
France went straight up to the other end almost immediately, with Kylian Mbappe getting his first sight of goal as he caught a volley from distance sweetly but struck it straight at Ivica Ivusic.
Christopher Nkunku buzzed around on the right to good effect, sending a long-range effort flashing just past the post, but largely the Croatians enjoyed a calm opening 45 minutes as they popped the ball around their World Cup-winning hosts with ease.
Lucas Digne managed two close calls in quick succession before the break, having a shot deflected just wide before seeing a dangerous cross diverted away from goal.
Benjamin Pavard and Aurelien Tchouameni were introduced at the start of the second half as manager Didier Deschamps attempted to end Les Bleus’ horrendous run of form during this Nations League break.
A horrendous header from Pavard allowed Josip Juranovic to nip in behind and set up Mario Pasalic, but a brilliant recovery challenge from Tchouameni prevented him from pulling the trigger.
Maignan was required to prevent Croatia from doubling their lead, parrying away a fierce but central strike from Lovro Majer.
Kingsley Coman and Antoine Griezmann were introduced later as France looked for an equaliser, but with the Croatian midfield of Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic staying resolute, they struggled for openings and ended the night defeated.
The loss is the latest setback in what has been a poor recent international break for France. They’ve failed to win any of their four games, losing to Denmark and drawing with Croatia and Austria before Monday’s defeat.
They are bottom of Group A1, while Croatia are up to second with their win, behind Denmark in first following their triumph over Austria.
GK: Mike Maignan – 4/10 – Got a hand to Modric’s penalty but couldn’t keep it out. Very erratic and his energy transferred to his teammates.
RB: Jules Kounde – 5/10 – Didn’t show much attacking endeavour, perhaps understandably given he usually plays in the middle.
CB: Ibrahima Konate – 5/10 – Might feel the penalty decision was soft but he could have been more switched on.
CB: Presnel Kimpembe – 6/10 – Captain for the game. Made some hefty blocks and slide tackles.
LB: Lucas Digne – 6/10 – Went close with a few flashes at goal towards the end of the first half.
RM: Christopher Nkunku – 7/10 – Brought some initiative to a France team that was largely pedestrian in the first half. Positive and lively.
CM: Boubacar Kamara – 6/10 – Lacked a bit of experience up against grizzly campaigners like Modric and Kovacic. Retained the ball steadily.
CM: Matteo Guendouzi – 5/10 – Booked for barging into Brekalo. Showed decent drive at times but not ready to fill in regularly for N’Golo Kante or Paul Pogba for France just yet.
LM: Adrien Rabiot – 4/10 – Tucked infield and often stifled France’s play. Booked for simulation. Bit of a wasted inclusion in the team’s regular starting XI.
ST: Karim Benzema – 6/10 – One jinking run through the middle of Croatia’s defence nearly provided France with an equaliser. A few other nearly moments but largely a quiet game at the end of a long season.
ST: Kylian Mbappe – 7/10 – Looked electric with the ball at his feet early on. Still struggling to link up proficiently with Benzema up front but looked most likely to disrupt Croatia’s stout defence.
SUB: Benjamin Pavard – 4/10 – Replaced Kounde at right back. Poor header almost gifted Croatia an opening. Later booked for a shove on Brekalo.
SUB: Aurelien Tchouameni – 7/10 – Had France’s second shot on target moments after his introduction with an easily gathered drive. Great recovery challenge on Pasalic.
SUB: Kingsley Coman – 6/10 – Looked to stretch Croatia’s tiring legs with his pace.
SUB: Antoine Griezmann – 5/10 – On for the final ten minutes. Miscontrolled a Benzema pass in what was France’s last chance of the game.