France were deservedly beaten in their Nations League A opener by a spirited Denmark side on Friday night in Paris.
Les Bleus looked to be in control for much of the match but failed to match the visitors’ intensity in the second half and gifted them two goals as the result of sloppy defending.
Denmark nearly took a fourth-minute lead when Joachim Andersen won possession high up the pitch and Andreas Skov Olsen dribbled his way into the France area. Lucas and Theo Hernandez both failed to properly deal with the winger and Kasper Dolberg was able to ghost in behind Raphael Varane, and his mis-hit shot fell to Joakim Maehle, but his effort from a tight angle struck the outside of the post.
Karim Benzema came close to breaking the deadlock after weaving his way through the Denmark midfield and playing a one-two with N’Golo Kante, but Jannik Vestergaard blocked the striker’s goal-bound strike.
The Real Madrid man had the ball in the net soon after following a quick snap-shot from Kylian Mbappe’s reverse pass, but the flag was up for offside.
Mbappe himself was next up to try his luck after a quieter middle period of the first half, but his shot was tame and easily held by Kasper Schmeichel.
A deflected cross from Daniel Wass nearly made its way to Maehle, but Jules Kounde was alert to the danger and France managed to escape.
After the break, Benzema went close to opening the scoring again, rising above Wass to thump a volley at Schmeichel, while he couldn’t get a clean contact on the rebound.
And Benzema finally managed to grab his goal in the 51st minute with a superbly taken finish, playing a swift give-and-go with substitute Christopher Nkunku, sitting a couple of Denmark defenders on their backside and passing it into the bottom corner.
But Denmark found a leveller a quarter of an hour later when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s perfectly weighted ball over the top was lashed in by Andreas Cornelius.
The visitors nearly turned the game around when Skov Olsen fired at Hugo Lloris’ near post, but the French skipper was equal to it.
Kante came inches away from putting Les Bleus back in front as his wonderful curling strike smashed Schmeichel’s post, while Nkunku was unable to keep the follow-up down.
Christian Eriksen should have won it in the dying embers after he was denied by former Tottenham teammate Lloris at close range, but Denmark found their clincher through Cornelius again after he shrugged off the challenge of William Saliba and blasted it into the roof of the net.
GK: Hugo Lloris – 6/10 – Provided some great stops late on but to little avail. His kicking was off.
CB: Jules Kounde – 6/10 – Stepped up well and provided decent support for Coman.
CB: Raphael Varane – 4/10 – Wasn’t always switched on but aside from Denmark’s opening chance was hardly a liability. Brought off with a hamstring problem.
CB: Lucas Hernandez – 4/10 – Similarly took a while to kick into gear.
RM: Kingsley Coman – 5/10 – Struggled in the first half when playing as a touchline winger, improved after the break when cutting inside.
CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – 5/10 – Provided a solid base in midfield for Kante to bomb on. Sometimes he was guilty of being too physical.
CM: N’Golo Kante – 7/10 – Excelled running in behind and linking up with Benzema.
LM: Theo Hernandez – 4/10 – A quiet night for a usually lively player.
AM: Antoine Griezmann – 2/10 – It was hard to notice that Griezmann was even playing.
CF: Kylian Mbappe – 5/10 – Dropped deep to collect the ball but did little with it. Substituted at half-time with a knee injury.
CF: Karim Benzema – 8/10 – France’s most dangerous player by far. Consistently drove at Denmark and more often than not getting by them.
SUB: Christopher Nkunku (CF, 46′ for Mbappe) – 6/10 – Was on the pitch for just five minutes when he grabbed the opening assist. Didn’t offer much else after.
SUB: William Saliba (CB, 61′ for Varane) – 2/10 – So weak, so poor.
SUB: Adrien Rabiot (AM, 78′ for Griezmann) – N/A
SUB: Moussa Diaby (RW, 90′ for Kounde) – N/A
SUB: Jonathan Klauss (LB, 90′ for Coman) – N/A
GK: Kasper Schmeichel – 7/10 – Made a few decent saves. His distribution was subpar.
CB: Joachim Andersen – 8/10 – Dealt with most of the danger that came down his side.
CB: Victor Nelsson – 5/10 – Lost his duels with Benzema but he wasn’t the only culprit.
CB: Jannik Vestergaard – 3/10 – Dealt with France’s physicality and guile awfully.
RM: Daniel Wass – 4/10 – Wasn’t of much use at either end.
CM: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – 9/10 – Did his best to match Tchouameni and Kante in the physical battle. Provided a wonderful assist for Cornelius and took control of the game from then onwards.
CM: Thomas Delaney – 3/10 – Played like a sieve. Didn’t help out Hojbjerg enough, roamed forward but without intent.
LM: Joakim Maehle – 7/10 – Denmark’s best attacks came when Maehle was involved. Did well to keep Coman quiet.
RF: Andreas Skov Olsen – 5/10 – Looked tidy in isolated periods but that was it.
CF: Kasper Dolberg – 4/10 – France’s centre-backs didn’t look up for the fight and Dolberg refused to exploit that.
LF: Christian Eriksen – 8/10 – Started on the front foot but faded in patches before roaring back late on.
SUB: Andreas Cornelius (CF, 60′ for Dolberg) – 10/10 – Took his opener well, peeling away from the centre-backs and deciding to volley instead of heading it, before grabbing an important winner.
SUB: Rasmus Kristensen (CB, 60′ for Vestergaard) – 5/10
SUB: Mikkel Damsgaard (AM, 60′ for Wass) – 5/10
SUB: Martin Braithwaite (RF, 84′ for Skov Olsen) – N/A
SUB: Mathias Jensen (CM, 85′ for Delaney) – N/A