NUR-SULTAN: Ousmane Dembele inspired France to a 2-0 victory over Kazakhstan on Sunday in their second match in World Cup qualifying Group D.
Four days after being held 1-1 by Ukraine at the Stade de France, the world champions built their win in the first half with Sergiy Maliy’s own goal adding to Dembele’s opener before Kylian Mbappe missed a second-half penalty.
France moved top of the standings with four points, ahead of Bosnia, who they face away on Wednesday, Ukraine and Finland.
Ukraine host Finland later on Sunday. Kazakhstan have zero points after playing their first game of the campaign.
Only captain Hugo Lloris and Antoine Griezmann remained from the team who started against Ukraine, with the Barcelona forward setting a new record of 45 consecutive starts for Les Bleus.
He beat the previous mark of Patrick Vieira, who started 44 games in a row between 1999 and 2002.
It was Griezmann’s club team mate Dembele who broke the deadlock on 20 minutes with a right-footed shot after being set up by Anthony Martial following a defence-splitting pass from Paul Pogba.
Dembele has just returned to the France side, coming on as a second-half substitute against Ukraine more than two years after his previous cap in November, 2018.
His third international goal from 23 appearances, his first since a 3-1 friendly win against Italy in June, 2018, came as a welcome boost less than two months before coach Didier Deschamps names his squad for this year’s European Championship.
Les Bleus doubled the lead on the stroke of halftime when Maliy, who had just denied Martial, headed a cross into his own net.
France were never threatened and had a big opportunity to add a third in the 76th minute, but Mbappe’s spot-kick was saved by Aleksandr Mokin.