France secure finals spot
Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud combined to secure a 2-1 win for France over Belarus that wrapped up a spot at the World Cup in Russia for the 1998 champions.
France were assured of a play-off spot before kick-off on Tuesday but had Sweden sitting just a point behind, potentially ready to capitalise on any slip-up from the hosts in Paris.
Having drawn in Belarus in their Group A opener last September, France put on only a marginally more convincing showing at the Stade de France against opponents who had lost their previous three matches.
Belarus were indebted to goalkeeper Sergey Chernik after he made an instinctive one-handed stop from Raphael Varane’s close-range header following a goalmouth scramble in the 19th minute.
France continued to press and came even close to an opener two minutes later, Giroud leaping to nod Coman’s delivery onto the crossbar, with Chernik a mere spectator.
The deadlock was eventually broken by Griezmann, who took Blaise Matuidi’s throughball in his stride and slotted through Chernik’s legs.
Griezmann then quickly seized on some sloppy play at the back from the visitors, who were left with a mountain to climb when the Atletico Madrid star picked out Giroud, whose deflected effort squirmed into the bottom-left corner.
But, after Saroka had fired a vicious warning shot narrowly over Hugo Lloris’ bar, he found the back of the net from Yuri Kovalev’s cross.
For a side with only one win to their name in the group, Belarus proved refreshingly positive until the end and Saroka saw one final chance come and go, but it was France celebrating at the final whistle.