Paul Pogba struck a sensational free-kick on an emotional night for the Manchester United midfielder as France beat World Cup hosts Russia 3-1 in an international friendly at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.
Pogba, who’s been struggling to get game time at United, set up Kylian Mbappe with a well-weighted through ball early and the Paris Saint-Germain promptly beat Andrey Lunev with a low shot to open the scoring on Tuesday night.
Les Blues, UEFA Euro 2016 finalists, were in the ascendancy from the off but the plucky hosts had their moments too, mostly via set-pieces and counters, but France skipper Hugo Lloris was proving to be an impenetrable presence between the sticks.
The Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper made a string of fine saves to preserve his side’s clean-sheet before Mbappe eventually registered the first goal of the tie in the 40th minute.
And the second-half began with France firmly in the driver’s seat and Pogba would double their lead with a fine free-kick from 35 yards in the 49th minute. The flashy Frenchman promptly slid towards the corner flag and revealed a touching tribute to his late father written on his inner jersey.
The second goal allowed Didier Deschamps’ side some breathing space and they started to express themselves on the pitch but the Russians continued to probe their defence on set-pieces.
Fedor Smolov would pull one back for the hosts with over 20 minutes to go but the hosts were unable to get what would have been a morale-boosting draw for Mbappe scored his second and France’s third in the 83rd minute to finally put the result of the game beyond doubt.
After their shock defeat to Colombia on the weekend, France needed to win and while they did the job, it was not the most convincing performance. The European heavyweights, like most of their rivals, still have plenty of kinks to workout before the quadrennial showpiece kicks off in June.