Soccer-France rediscover their touch as winless run ends


Soccer Football - World Cup - UEFA Qualifiers - Group D - France v Finland - Groupama Stadium, Lyon, France- September 7, 2021 France's Antoine Griezmann scores their second goal REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

PARIS (Reuters) - After five consecutive draws, France found their groove again as they finally managed to get some inspiration in a 2-0 victory against Finland in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

Les Bleus, who had long been struggling against compact sides, failed to beat Bosnia & Herzegovina and Ukraine in their previous games.

But, a shift in formation with full backs Theo Hernandez and Leo Dubois moving forward to winger positions in attacking mode, they stretched the defence to strengthen their grip on Group D.

Antoine Griezmann scored a double after some nice combinations with Karim Benzema as the injured Kylian Mbappe's absence was barely felt in Lyon's Groupama stadium.

"I'm very happy with my performance and with that of the team," said Griezmann, who joined Michel Platini in third place of France's all-time scorers with 41 goals, 10 behind Thierry Henry.

"Maybe we found a system that suits us better," he added, although the same formation had been used against Switzerland in the last 16 of Euro 2020 when France suffered a shock exit on penalties.

Les Bleus, however, have regained part of the self-confidence that had eroded during the European Championship.

"We breathe better after this game," said captain Hugo Lloris, who conceded France had been shocked by their Euro fiasco.

"We've enjoyed ourselves even if we were a bit tense at the beginning of the match. We don't want to fall in line. We've reached a very high level and we want to stay up there."

The biggest satisfaction was the relation between Griezmann and Benzema, who set up the Atletico Madrid forward for the opener and created the space that led to the second goal.

It led to questions about Mbappe's role, but coach Didier Deschamps would not be drawn on making long-term changes.

"Kylian was not here, but I prefer if he's here," he said.

"He has his place in this attacking trio," added Deschamps, who fielded Anthony Martial alongside Griezmann and Benzema.

With 12 points from six games, France are in the driving seat to qualify for next year's World Cup as they lead second-placed Ukraine by seven points and third-placed Finland, who have two games in hand, also by seven.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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