World champions France beat Kazakhstan

France kickstarted their World Cup qualification campaign with an unconvincing 2-0 victory over minnows Kazakhstan at the Astana Arena.

Having drawn at home to Ukraine on matchday one last week, a big win was needed. Although the points were secured with minimal fuss, questions over mentality will hardly have been answered here.

Kazakhstan pressed high and forced France to hurry from the start, with Hugo Lloris almost losing control of the ball yards out from his own goal, only to scramble the ball clear.

As the first half went on, France began to dominate the ball, and though chances were at a premium, they took the lead on 20 minutes when Anthony Martial turned and fed Ousmane Dembele, whose finish was emphatic.

With two minutes to go before half time, France almost doubled their lead. A poor clearance by Aleksandr Mokin was pounced upon and Thomas Lemar was soon bearing down on goal. He chipped the ball goalwards, but before Martial could head home, Sergiy Maliy cleared off the line.

From the resulting corner, though, Maliy put through his own net after grappling with Paui Pogba to give the world champions a cushion at the break.

It was very much more of the same as France laboured well into the second half. Kylian Mbappe’s introduction for Martial, who appeared to sustain a knee injury, injected some purpose into their play.

The 22-year-old forced Mokin into a save just moments after he denied Dembele, whose header from point-blank range lacked power.

Mokin’s big moment came with 15 minutes remaining, when he pulled off a stunning save to keep out Mbappe’s penalty after he was fouled by Nuraly Alip in the area.