Reykjavik (AFP) – Depleted France needed an Olivier Giroud penalty to edge past Iceland 1-0 and keep pace with Turkey in their Euro 2020 Group H qualifier in Reykjavik on Friday.
With key duo Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba both out injured, the world champions mustered just enough to end the evening on 18 points, level with leaders Turkey and six ahead of Iceland with three games to go.
France now host Turkey in a crunch game at the Stade de France on Monday, having suffered a 2-0 defeat in Ankara in June.
“That’s a good win ahead of the big match we’re all expecting Monday,” said coach Didier Deschamps after his 200th match with France — 97 of those coming in the dugout.
“It wasn’t easy, they were dangerous, even if we had several chances to score again.”
After a torrid night for Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann, whom the compact Iceland defence niggled away at continually, the referee awarded a penalty for a sneaky kick on 66 minutes.
Despite little playing time at Chelsea this season, Giroud retains the faith of Deschamps and the 33-year-old fired a sure strike past Hannes Halldorsson with a confident spot-kick.
“It was a tough match but a good game from the whole team gave us the three points. Now we have a big home game on Monday,” said Griezmann.
“We suffered over there so we’ll have to be ready.”
With 37 international goals Giroud is third in the all-time scoring standings for France, behind Thierry Henry on 51 and Michel Platini on 41.
Already missing Pogba and the fleet-footed Mbappe, France also lost their midfield metronome N’Golo Kante to a hamstring strain in the warm-up.
But the Euro 2016 finalists enjoyed 75 percent possession with Blaise Matuidi and Moussa Sissoko enjoying a great deal of the ball on the left.
Matuidi hit the post on 77 minutes after a neat cutback from Bayern Munich midfielder Kingsley Coman and late substitute Wissam Ben Yedder almost added a late second.
Giroud had picked up a yellow card for dissent after a penalty appeal for handball in the first half as the visitors fared poorly against a robust home defence.
In the French goal Steve Mandanda, in for Hugo Lloris after his dislocated elbow last weekend, made his first save on 30 minutes into the game and was little troubled thereafter.
France beat Iceland 4-0 at home back in June and the two had history after their quarter-final meeting during Euro 2016 which Les Bleus also won 5-2.