November 11, 2016

SAINT-DENIS, France (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 swerving 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, slotted home the winner in the 65th, after a handling error from goalkeeper Robin Olsen under pressure from forward Antoine Griezmann.

France coach Didier Deschamps conceded that Griezmann was ''fractionally offside'' when he went to challenge for the ball.

''But some decisions went against us, too, and there was a foul on (Laurent) Koscielny not given before Sweden's goal,'' Deschamps said.

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 strike 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.

''It's not decisive yet, but it's an important result for us,'' Deschamps said. ''We could have done better, but that's also down to Sweden making things difficult for us. They were athletic and good on set pieces.''

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 against the Netherlands with a rasping 30-meter strike.

Between those games, 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.

''I know he likes to score, and that's good for him, but it's not specifically what I expect from him. I'm happier with his overall performance, which was in line with what he did against Holland,'' Deschamps said. ''He plays differently for United in a different system. He won a lot of possession for us and when he's playing at that level, in tandem with Blaise Matuidi in midfield, he's very important.''

But 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 Koscielny as he slid on the ground.

''We're proud of our performance,'' said Sweden coach Janne Andersson, who was unhappy that Griezmann was not given offside in the build-up to France's winner. ''We deserved much better, but we need to create more scoring chances.''

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.

Andersson, however, was not impressed.

''I don't have an opinion,'' he said, when asked if Pogba was getting back to his best. ''I don't watch what other teams do. I watch my own players.''

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)