Kylian Mbappé scored with France’s only shot on target on Saturday in Solna to give the world champions a 1-0 victory over Sweden in the first round of Nations League matches.
Mbappé picked up the ball outside the goal in the 41st minute, passed two defenders, waited for goalkeeper Robin Olsen to come down, and then slashed the ball just inside the post from the narrowest angle.
The strike was enough to give France victory in a cautious first match in Group 3 of the elite League A in the competition.
“It was a committed match, not a great match,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “It was a good back-to-school game, considering the fitness levels.”
Mbappé agreed that fitness, after the disturbance caused by the coronavirus pandemic, explained the lackluster game.
“We are not all at the same level,” Mbappé said.
Sweden managed just three goals on goal in the 90 minutes, although one of them was a deflection by French defender Dayot Upamecano, who made his international debut, which Hugo Lloris saved.
Antoine Griezmann had a chance to double the French lead with the final kick of the game after Anthony Martial was fouled in the box, but the Barcelona striker shot the penalty high.
“It was a difficult game,” said Mbappé. “We competed well, it was not easy.”
Deschamps has adopted a new system with two strikers.
“It is clear that I am closer to the goal,” said Mbappé. “I like that.”
Captain Lloris also focused on training and lack of form.
“In the second half we lost intensity, the Swedes seemed very good to me physically,” said the goalkeeper, adding that the team was still learning the new system.
“We are not going to adapt overnight, we had very few days to prepare, we have to work on it, we have to give it time.”
For France’s first game since they beat Albania last November, Deschamps called up Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot for his first appearance since he refused to serve as a substitute for the 2018 World Cup.
France faces Croatia in a rematch of the 2018 World Cup final at the Stade de France in Paris on Tuesday, while Sweden faces the fourth team in the group, Portugal, winner of the inaugural Nations League, in Solna. .
France traveled to Sweden with just two goalkeepers after Steve Mandanda from Marseille was sent home because a Covid-19 test was deemed to have failed and there was no time to organize tests for a replacement.
After Saturday’s win, Deschamps said he had called up Benoit Costil from Bordeaux, who will join the team on Sunday.