Pogba, Payet lead France in World Cup qualifying comeback vs. Sweden
PARIS (AP) — Paul Pogba is finding his scoring touch, heading in a valuable equalizer in France's 2-1 win against Sweden in a World Cup qualifier on Friday.
The Manchester United midfielder—the world's most expensive player—headed in off the crossbar in the 58th minute, three minutes after Emil Forsberg had punished a sloppy period of French play with a deflected free kick that wrong-footed goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
France winger Dimitri Payet, who set up Pogba's goal with one of his pinpoint free kicks from the left, also contributed another useful goal. Payet slotted home the winner in the 65th after a handling error from goalkeeper Robin Olsen when under pressure from forward Antoine Griezmann.
Payet rescued France at this summer's European Championship, scoring a last-minute winner in the opening group game as Les Bleus went on to reach the final.
Both Payet and Pogba netted the eighth international goal of their careers, but Pogba's came just as Sweden threatened a victory that would have thrown Group A wide open. Instead, France leads with 10 points, three more than second-placed Sweden and six more than the Netherlands. The Dutch play in Luxembourg on Sunday.
After an inconsistent start to the season, following his record-breaking transfer of 105 million euros ($116 million) from Italian champion Juventus, Pogba is getting closer to his best form.
Last weekend, he scored with a superb 20-meter (yard) volley for United against Swansea in the Premier League.
In France's previous qualifier, he struck the winner in a 1-0 win away to the Netherlands with a rasping 30-yard strike.
In between, he netted twice for United in a 4-1 win against Fenerbahce in the Europa League, one of the goals a fine curler from outside the area.
France needed his goal on a bitterly cold night because strikers Olivier Giroud—starting in attack ahead of Kevin Gameiro—and Griezmann squandered chances.
The first chance of the game fell to the Swedes early on when France center half Raphael Varane had to hack away a dangerous cross.
Payet then had an effort saved by Olsen, but the rest of France's shooting was from long range and wayward.
This left France left vulnerable to a sucker punch and it almost came when burly striker Ola Toivonen's goal-bound effort was expertly blocked by France center half Laurent Koscielny as he slid on the ground.
Giroud headed over early in the second half and Pogba's shot from just outside the area was blocked.
Sweden made the French pay, but it spurred Pogba into action.