Kingsley Coman's Brace Leads France over Albania 4-1 in Euro 2020 Qualifier

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2019

France's Kingsley Coman, left, celebrates his second goal with France's Olivier Giroud during the Euro 2020 group H qualifying soccer match between France and Albania at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, north of Paris, France, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Christophe Ena/Associated Press

France are top of Group H of the qualification campaign for UEFA Euro 2020 after beating Albania 4-1 at the Stade de France on Saturday.

Kingsley Coman bagged a brace, while Olivier Giroud and substitute Jonathan Ikone also found the net. Those goals gave Les Bleus all three points and kept the 2018 FIFA World Cup winners ahead of Iceland on goal difference.

Sokol Cikalleshi scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time, but it was little consolation for the away side.

There was a delayed start to the match after the visitors were left aggrieved when the wrong national anthem was played:

Coman struck after just eight minutes, producing a cool finish into the bottom corner after being assisted by Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane.

The goal marked a special first for Bayern Munich winger Coman:

Despite racing to an early lead, Les Bleus struggled to build on the momentum. Things were static at the heart of midfield, where Coman's Bayern team-mate Corentin Tolisso and Juventus workhorse Blaise Matuidi struggled to muster genuine creativity.

It meant Coman and Thomas Lemar were left to supply Antoine Griezmann from wide areas. The latter posed a considerable threat with his pace and perceptive movement but was rarely able to time his runs just right to avoid the offside flag.

Quality from the flanks was the key to France's second goal when left-back Lucas Hernandez got free on the overlap. He pulled the ball back for Giroud, who made no mistake from inside the area.

Giroud isn't starting for Chelsea, but goals have rarely been a problem for the skilled target man at international level:

Hernandez continued to give Albania problems, and he won a penalty nine minutes before the break. Griezmann stepped up but crashed his effort off the bar.

Griezmann made amends when he teed up Coman for a second goal in the 68th minute. A brace was a worthy haul for the 23-year-old, who had been the most influential player for the hosts in the final third.

Coman's performance was aided by the experience and technique of those around him:

Giroud's clever touches and Griezmann's awareness of space helped France overcome the lack of guile in the middle of the park. Coman was the beneficiary, but he made way for international debutant Ikone on 77 minutes.

The Lille No. 10 made his first international appearance an occasion to remember by finding the net with a smart finish five minutes from time.

There was time for Cikalleshi to score from 12 yards after Hugo Lloris' reckless challenge, but Albania were well beaten. France had scored four times and eased through the gears in attack without being in peak form.

With some creativity in midfield, Les Bleus would be a lock for Euro 2020 and the strongest team headed into the tournament proper.

   

What's Next? 

France host Andorra on Tuesday, September 10, while Albania will be at home to Iceland on the same day.

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