Olivier Giroud Penalty Saves France vs. Moldova in Euro 2020 Qualifier

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2019

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 14: Raphael Varane of France scores his team's first goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier between France and Moldova on November 14, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

France have already qualified in the 2020 Euros, and it showed during Thursday's qualifying match vs. Moldova. 

Les Blues offered a lacklustre display at the Stade de France in Paris, securing a 2-1 victory despite an incredibly mediocre first half that saw Moldova's Vadim Rata score the game's opening goal. Raphael Varane and Olivier Giroud answered for France, however, giving the country a nervy win in what was expected to be a routine, stress-free day at the office. 

The victory moved France back atop Group H on 22 points, two ahead of Turkey with one fixture remaining. Moldova resides at the bottom of the table on just three points.

The first goal of the game shockingly went to Moldova, who coming into the match had scored all of two goals in the qualifying stage. Granted, French defender Clement Lenglet basically gave it to them.

The Barcelona centre-back scuffed several attempts to head the ball back to goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and was eventually muscled off the ball by Rata in the box in the ninth minute. The Moldovan then cleverly freed his right foot and sent his shot into the lower right corner, stunning France and giving the underdogs a 1-0 advantage.  

Moldova gave their lead away in the 35th minute, however. 

Varane leveled it up on a free-kick, though it was a sloppy bit of goalkeeping from Alexei Koselev that was responsible for the goal. Rather than punch away Antoine Griezmann's curling free-kick into the box, he attempted to catch it at the apex of his leap. The only issue was that Giroud, also jumping in an attempt to play the ball while facing away from Koselev, made contact with him.

Amidst that contact, Koselev wasn't able to secure control, and the ball bounced to Varane, who headed home the equalising goal. Moldova's desperate pleas for a foul on Giroud weren't heard. 

It was a lucky break for a French side that was disjointed at best in the first half. They came out looking brighter and a bit more direct in the second 45, though Moldova's compact defending continued to give the French attack issues. 

France kept probing, however, and a poor challenge from Veaceslav Posmac on Lucas Digne on the box in the 77th minute gave France a penalty. Giroud handled his business from the spot, and France had their lead.

It was a harsh result for Moldova, who played brilliantly outside their two costly lapses in judgement. Had Moldova secured even a point against the defending World Cup champions, it would have been a stunning achievement. Coming into the contest, Moldova had been outscored 22-2 in eight qualifying matches. Suffice to say, France were expected to make that tally even more lopsided. 

Instead, Les Bleus came away with a scrappy, unconvincing win. They are, however, one victory away from winning Group H, and anything less than a Turkey victory will guarantee the group for France. 

               

What's Next?

France will face Albania on Sunday at 2:45 p.m. ET, while Moldova plays Iceland at that same date and time.

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