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France take control of World Cup qualifying group
England based stars Paul Pogba and Dimitri Payet were the heroes on Friday night as France came from behind to beat Sweden 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier that was marked by tributes to the victims of last year's Paris terror attacks.
Before the kick-off at the Stade de France, a minute of silence was scrupulously observed to remember those who had lost their lives or were injured in the assaults.
The stadium on the northern outskirts of Paris was the scene for one of the attacks during the France friendly against Germany. Other atrocities took place at cafes and the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris.
The game against the world champions last year was staged as part of France’s preparations for the Euro 2016 tournament which it hosted. Friday’s clash against the Swedes came with the ultimate prize of qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
After a muted first half, the home faithful were silenced inteh 54th minute when Emil Forsberg put Sweden ahead from a free-kick. Within five minutes, the sides were level. Pogba headed home Payet’s free-kick from the left.
Payet then capped an increasingly influential display to prod in after the Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen spilled the ball under pressure from Antoine Griezmann who had challenged him from an offside position.
The result means France lead Group A with 10 points from four games. Sweden are second with seven points but the Netherlands have a chance to move above the Swedes provided they win at bottom of the table Luxembourg on Sunday.
"Decisive no, but important yes," was how France coach Didier Deschamps summed up the result. "It was a difficult game but the result is all that counts. Sweden made things complicated for us."
Sweden coach Janne Andersson said his side had merited more.
“It is a bit of a shame because the second goal was offside.But these things happen in sport," he added.