Live Commentary: Bulgaria 0-1 France - as it happened

Live Commentary: Bulgaria 0-1 France - as it happened
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Relive Sports Mole's live commentary of the 2018 World Cup qualifier between Bulgaria and France, which ended in a 2-0 away win.

France returned to the top of their 2018 World Cup qualification group courtesy of a 1-0 win over Bulgaria on Saturday night.

Didier Deschamps's side entered the Group A clash two points behind leaders Sweden, but Les Bleus have now returned to the summit with just one match to play courtesy of a one-goal victory in Sofia.

Read how it all unfolded in Sports Mole's minute-by-minute live commentary of the action below.


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6.46pmEvening all! Sports Mole's live 2018 World Cup qualification coverage continues from Sofia as Bulgaria welcome France in Group A. France have just been knocked off top spot by Sweden's thumping victory over Luxembourg, but a win for Didier Deschamps's side here would see them return to the summit with just one match left to play. Stay tuned for what is a very important game!

6.49pmTonight will be the 22nd meeting between these two nations. France lead the head-to-head nine wins to Bulgaria's eight, while just four of their previous 21 clashes have finished level. France recorded a 4-1 win in the reverse match last October, and that was actually their first meeting since Euro 1996.

6.52pmRight, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from Sofia. Any shocks in the France team? What about Bulgaria – any familiar names? Let's have a look...

6.55pmTEAMS!

BUL: Iliev; Zanev, Bozhikov, Bodurov, Popov; Kostadinov, Slavchev, Nedelev, Manolev; Delev, Galabinov


FRA: Lloris; Sidibe, Varane, Umtiti, Digne; Tolisso, Kante, Matuidi; Griezmann, Lacazette, Mbappe


6.58pm

7.02pmGenoa forward Andrey Galabinov will lead the line for Bulgaria tonight, while there is also a start for 28-year-old Spas Delev, who wins his 16th cap. CSKA Sofia's Stanislav Manolev is also included, while it is once again 31-year-old Nikolay Bodurov and 29-year-old Vasil Bozhikov at the heart of the defence. It is an inexperienced XI when it comes to international appearances.

7.05pmTeenage superstar Kylian Mbappe wins his seventh France cap tonight, with the Paris Saint-Germain forward starting on the left of an attack which also includes Alexandre Lacazette and Antoine Griezmann. Corentin Tolisso earns just his second cap in central midfield alongside Blaise Matuidi and N'Golo Kante, while it is Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti at the heart of the defence. Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud, Thomas Lemar and Dimitri Payet are among those on the away side's bench tonight.

7.08pmSo there we have it. The two teams are in, and we are now just about 40 minutes from kickoff on this mild evening in Sofia. I shall speak about Bulgaria a little bit later, but let's start with France, who really need to collect all three points tonight. Indeed, Deschamps's side have been knocked down to second spot in this group courtesy of Sweden's 8-0 win over Luxembourg earlier tonight.

7.12pm

7.15pmSweden top Group A on 19 points, while France are second on 17 points. Netherlands sit down in third position on 13 points, while Bulgaria are fourth on 12 points. Nothing is guaranteed at this stage of the process, but a win for France tonight would leave them in a very strong position ahead of their final group match, which is at home to Belarus on Tuesday night. Tonight is massive for France.

7.18pmFrance opened their Group A campaign with a goalless draw in Belarus, before beating Bulgaria, Netherlands, Sweden and Luxembourg in their next four to move into a strong position. Deschamps's side lost 2-1 in Sweden back in June, but then returned to the summit with a 4-0 win over Netherlands at the end of August. At that point, France were in a very strong position in the group.

7.22pmA shock goalless draw at home to Luxembourg on September 3, however, as left them in a potentially difficult position. Two wins in their final two group matches will be enough to book their spot in next summer's tournament, but Sweden, who thumped Luxembourg earlier tonight, are refusing to back down in second position. There is simply no downplaying the importance of tonight's match.

7.25pm

7.28pmFrance, of course, reached the final of Euro 2016 on home soil – losing to Portugal. Their last showing at a World Cup brought a quarter-final appearance in 2014, but they exited the 2010 World Cup in the group stage, and there is a feeling that Les Bleus could make a big impression next summer if they manage to secure a spot. It would be a massive shame not to see this squad in Russia.

7.32pmAs for Bulgaria, Peter Hubchev's team, as mentioned, are currently fourth in the group on 12 points. They have won four and lost four of their eight fixtures, but can actually still finish as runners-up in the group. A fairly substantial turnaround would have to occur, however, starting with a big win over France tonight.

7.35pmBulgaria have not qualified for the finals of a World Cup since 1998, when they were eliminated in the group stages. They famously reached the semi-finals of the 1994 competition, but it has been a difficult period in Bulgarian football. That said, there is no question that this team has the potential to cause France a lot of problems tonight. Kickoff is now just 10 minutes away here!

7.38pm

7.42pmIndeed, Bulgaria recorded a 2-0 win over Netherlands on home soil back in March. They also beat Sweden 3-2 in their last home match on August 31, but will enter tonight's game off the back of a 3-1 defeat in Netherlands last month. Right, both sets of players are in the tunnel ahead of kickoff. It is a massive game for both teams, can France pick up a vital three points? Stay tuned for the action!

0 minKICKOFF! Bulgaria kick things off in Sofia...

2 min... it is a very wet Sofia. Very, very wet. Not quite the ideal conditions for a game of football, but it should make things very exciting. You do get the feeling that the first goal could be crucial tonight.

3 minAs expected, France have taken control of the possession in the early moments, with Tolisso and Kante seeing plenty of the ball in the middle of the park. The rain continues to fall, which has made the surface extremely slippy. Bulgaria are more than happy to sit deep at the moment here.

3 minGOAL! Bulgaria 0-1 France (Matuidi)

4 minWhat a wonderful goal! France take the lead in the third minute as Griezmann finds Matuidi with a clever touch inside the Bulgaria box, and the midfielder finds the top corner from an acute angle!

6 minHalf-chance for Bulgaria as Nedelev strikes one from outside the box, but his effort is deflected wide of the post. The resulting corner is then cleared by the towering Varane.

9 minNine minutes on the clock, and in fairness to Bulgaria, they are trying to cause problems in the final third. Not too much from France since the goal, but the visitors do have decent control of this match.

9 minBOOKING! Slavchev (Bulgaria) is booked for a late challenge on Mbappe.

11 minHalf-chance for France as Digne is sent through down the left, but the defender's cross is blocked by Bodurov. The visitors are having plenty of joy in the wide positions thus far tonight.

13 minJust a reminder that a win for France would see them return to the top of Group A ahead of Sweden. As it stands, Les Bleus are in a very strong position to qualify for the finals, but Bulgaria have already shown bits and pieces in the final third. This should be a very interesting match.

15 minThe rain continues to fall in Sofia, and it is showing no signs of stopping! I am not complaining as it is making things very interesting on the field. Lots of bounces all over the place here!

16 minSidibe delivers a low cross into the Bulgaria box, but Iliev manages to collect ahead of Griezmann.

16 minSAVE! Decent save from the Bulgaria goalkeeper as he pushes a Mbappe effort wide of the post. Mbappe's pace had taken him into a dangerous area once again.

19 minBulgaria are finding it difficult to get out of their own half at the moment as France continue to force the issue. A couple of corners are delivered into the home side's box, but good work from the goalkeeper sees the danger cleared. Still 1-0 France with 19 minutes on the clock in Sofia.

20 minTolisso sends one wide of the Bulgaria post from just outside the box.

22 minDecent spell for Bulgaria in the last couple of minutes, but they are struggling to make a serious impression in the final third of the field. France are pretty comfortable as things stand in Sofia.

24 minNot too much to report in the last couple of minutes, with France more than happy to just keep possession of the football. Mbappe continues to cause problems on the final line of the defence.

26 minSide delivers a low cross into the Bulgarian box, but there are no takers. Popov then looks to carry the ball down the other end of the field, but Kante is across to make the challenge.

26 minCHANCE! Super chance for France as Mbappe finds Griezmann with a brilliant pass inside the Bulgarian box, but the Atletico forward curls just wide of the far post!

28 minBulgaria break clear as Slavchev finds Delev, but Griezmann is back to make the challenge as the home side are frustrated once again. Still 1-0 with 28 minutes on the clock in Sofia.

30 minCHANCE! Wonderful chance for Lacazette as Mbappe finds the Arsenal forward inside the Bulgarian box, but Bozhikov is on hand to make a brilliant goal-saving challenge!

32 minFrance have a couple of problems here as Kante and Sidibe both go down in separate incidents. Kante might well have pulled his hamstring, while Sidibe took a whack from Delev in a wide area.

34 minFRANCE SUB! Kante has pulled his hamstring, which is a massive blow to the French national team and indeed Chelsea. Rabiot enters as his replacement.

36 minThe rain continues to fall in Sofia, and France are still ahead courtesy of that early strike from Matuidi, which found the top corner. Nothing much from Bulgaria in the final third at the moment.

37 minSAVE! Oh my word! Stunning save from Lloris as the France goalkeeper somehow keeps out a header from Kostadinov after the Tottenham stopper had made a meal of a strike from Slavchev. The home side's clearest chance of the match thus far!

40 minMbappe breaks into the Bulgaria box, but Zanev is on hand to make a terrific challenge. Mbappe's pace was absolutely frightening there as he simply raced clear of the waiting defenders.

42 minBit of possession for Bulgaria in the latter stages of the first period, but France deal with the pressure comfortably. Bulgaria have had a couple of super chances to score, but France still lead as we head for the final stages of the first period. This opening 42 minutes has absolutely flown past.

44 minSome nice flicks and tricks from France in the latter stages of this first period.

45+1 minFrance have a free kick just outside the Bulgaria box as Rabiot is felled...

45+1 min... Griezmann's effort is straight into the wall, before Mbappe fires wide moments later.

45+2 minHALF-TIME: Bulgaria 0-1 France

8.32pmSo there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with France leading Bulgaria 1-0 courtesy of a third-minute strike from Matuidi, who found the top corner with a super finish. Bulgaria have had their moments - and a couple of good chances - but France deserve their lead.

8.37pmSTATS! France have dominated the possession with 56%, while the visitors had nine attempts in the first period - two of which were on target. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hit the target with two of their four attempts. Just the one yellow card to report - Slavchev in the ninth minute for a foul on Mbappe.

8.42pmBENCH WATCH! Panov, Kraev and Nedyallkov are among those on the Bulgaria bench tonight, and it would not be a surprise to see a change for the home side at the interval. As for France, Deschamps has already been forced into one change - Rabiot replacing the injured Kante. However, the likes of Coman, Giroud, Lemar, Payet and Sissoko are still available for the visitors tonight.

46 minRESTART! France resume the action here...

47 min... no changes from either side at the interval, which is not too much of a surprise. However, I suspect that both managers will have alterations in mind as the second period develops here.

47 minHalf-chance for Bulgaria early in the half, but Delev sends his effort wide of the far post.

48 minBULGARIA SUB! Kraev replaces Galabinov early in the second period.

50 minBOOKING! Zanev (Bulgaria) is booked for a rash challenge on Tolisso.

51 minFrance are not happy with that challenge from Zanev, but there was not too much in it. Try telling that to Tolisso, however, who is still on the ground receiving some treatment here.

53 minI suspect that France boss Deschamps will be considering changes, even this early. Bulgaria are playing really well at the moment as they continue to cause problems in the final third. Another cross comes into the away side's box, and neither Varane nor Umtiti really deal with it.

55 minIt is all kicking off once again as Tolisso is fouled in the middle of the park. It was a naughty challenge from Slavchev, who has already been booked. This is all getting a bit nasty!

57 minSuper chance for France as Sidibe delivers a low cross into Mbappe, but the teenager was offside. It was some miss from the Paris Saint-Germain attacker, who had just drifted offside.

60 minLittle over 30 minutes of football remaining here, and France still lead 1-0 courtesy of that early finish from Matuidi. Bulgaria, however, have come on strong at the start of the second period.

61 minNot an awful lot to report in the last few minutes, but France have just managed to regain some control. It has not been the best game since the break, with France struggling to get going here.

62 minBOOKING! Kraev (Bulgaria) is booked for a foul on Varane.

64 minThere is a serious lack of quality in this game at the moment, with Matuidi missing a simple pass into Mbappe when France were in a dangerous area. Bulgaria, meanwhile, are struggling to keep the ball.

66 minStill no movement on the France bench, but Deschamps surely must be considering changes. While the score remains 1-0, Bulgaria will always be in this football match. It is delicately poised here.

68 minLacazette over-runs the ball after putting his head down inside the Bulgaria box. It is very difficult to get excited about this game at the moment due to the lack of quality on display. Still 1-0 France.

68 minBOOKING! Kostadinov (Bulgaria) is booked for a late challenge on Tolisso.

71 minManolev delivers into the France box, but there are no takers, and the away side can resume through Lloris. Little under 20 minutes of football remaining, and not too much is happening here.

73 minFrance just cannot get going here, and I am very surprised that there has not been a change in the final third of the field. A certain Anthony Martial would be perfect for this stage of the match, but he is not even in the squad. Coman and Giroud are among those available for Deschamps.

75 minThe referee has to step in once again as Sidibe clashes with Popov in a wide position. You do get the feeling that something is going to boil over in the latter stages of this match.

77 minFRANCE SUB! Payet replaces Lacazette for the away side.

80 minLittle over 10 minutes of this Group A clash remaining, and the home supporters are doing their best to raise their team. You still get the feeling that there could be a late goal in this match. As it stands, France are heading to the top of the group, but a Bulgaria goal would keep them second.

82 minVarane puts Delev on the ground as the referee is forced to step in once again. It would not be a surprise to see a red card in the latter stages as the tension continues in Sofia.

84 minBulgaria seem to have found some more energy here as they come on strong ahead of the final five minutes. France, however, are holding strong at the back as Umtiti clears his lines once again.

85 minFRANCE SUB! Giroud replaces Mbappe in France's final change.

87 minThe challenges continue to fly in here! Sidibe is at the heart of it once again, but France manage to clear their lines. Still 1-0 to the visitors with 87 minutes on the clock in Sofia.

88 minBULGARIA SUB! Dimitrov replaces Manolev for the home side.

90 minGriezmann is almost playing right-back at the moment as France continue to clear their lines. Umtiti also does his bit after Varane falls over inside the box. We are entering the final stages of this game.

90+1 minWe are into the first of three additional minutes here.

90+1 minBOOKING! Giroud (France) is booked for dissent.

90+3 minBulgaria have the ball, but they cannot break through, and France are heading to the top of Group A. Lloris collects a cross from Nedelev, and we are into the very final moments of this one.

90+4 minFULL-TIME: Bulgaria 0-1 France

9.38pmSo there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with France recording a 1-0 win over Bulgaria as Deschamps's side return to the top of Group A with one game left. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live coverage once again. Until next time!

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