Despite French barrage, Luxembourg shock-and-awe with stunning draw
Antoine Griezmann missed a straightforward early chance as France had more than 30 shots on goal but failed to score in a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to a resilient Luxembourg on Sunday.
It is the first time France have failed to beat Luxembourg since 1914.
Veteran goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert kept Les Bleus at bay, as the visitors frustrated a France side that now only leads Sweden by one point in Group A with two games remaining.
France has 17 points, with Sweden on 16 and the Netherlands on 13 after beating Bulgaria 3-1 at home.
France routed the Netherlands 4-0 on Thursday, but it was a hugely frustrating night for coach Didier Deschamps’ side this time. Luxembourg almost stole victory when substitute Gerson Rodrigues hit the post with a fine solo run and shot 12 minutes from time.
But France should have scored early on, when forward Klylian Mbappe pulled the ball back and Griezmann blazed over from near the penalty spot when unmarked.
A Toulouse crowd hoping for a glut of goals ended up hoping for just one that never came.
After Mbappe, striker Oliver Giroud and full back Djibril Sidibe went close as Luxembourg continued frustrating France for the first half.
Midfielder Paul Pogba saw his shot from outside the penalty area palmed away by Joubert in the 37th, and Joubert tipped Griezmann’s free kick onto the crossbar moments later.
“We had clear chances but against a compact team like that you have to keep pushing,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.
The 37-year-old Joubert, making his 86th appearance, then made a superb low stop to keep out Sidibe’s close-range header in the 68th.
Luck was with the visitors as Pogba hit the crossbar with a looping header in the 77th.
Lukaku sends Belgium through
Romelu Lukaku was on target Sunday to give Belgium a 2-1 win over Greece and a place at next year’s World Cup.
The Group H fixture was goalless until the 70th minute, when Jan Vertonghen blasted the visitors into the lead with a fierce shot.
Greece responded three minutes later through Zeca, but only one more minute passed before Belgium retook the lead thanks to Lukaku’s header. It was the Manchester United forward’s 10th goal of the qualifying campaign.
Victory leaves the Belgians top with an unassailable eight-point lead over second-place Bosnia and Herzegovina. That makes Belgium the first European team confirmed for the World Cup besides host nation Russia.
Belgium is unbeaten in qualifying, with seven wins and a 1-1 draw at home to Greece in March.
The Belgians have scored 35 goals and conceded just three in a group where they were considered the overwhelming favorites.
Two goals from Edin Dzeko helped the Bosnians beat Gibraltar 4-0 to leapfrog Greece into second place. Belgium has 22 points, Bosnia and Herzegovina 14, Greece 13 and Cyprus 10.
Cyprus’s hopes of qualifying took another blow in a 1-0 loss away to Estonia, thanks to Mattias Kait’s winning goal in the dying seconds.
Estonia is fifth with eight points while last-place Gilbraltar has lost all eight matches.
Switzerland extrends run
Switzerland extended its perfect record in World Cup qualifying by defeating Latvia 3-0 Sunday for its eighth straight victory, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal edged Hungary 1-0 to stay close at the top of Group B.
With two games left, Switzerland has 24 points, three more than defending European champion Portugal. Third-place Hungary stayed on 10 points and is out of contention.
An Oct. 10 showdown between Portugal and Switzerland in Lisbon will likely decide which team wins the group to automatically qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Three days earlier, Switzerland hosts Hungary and Portugal plays at Andorra.
Earlier Sunday, the Faroe Islands defeated Andorra 1-0 for its second win, securing its best ever qualifying campaign.
Switzerland scored early and twice shortly after halftime to keep alive its impressive run in qualifying.
Forward Haris Seferovic netted his fourth goal in the qualifying campaign with a neat flick from close range, and Blerim Dzemaili and Ricardo Rodriguez added to the lead in the second half.
Silva keeps Portugal in hunt
Portugal kept pace with Switzerland with its seventh straight victory since an opening 2-0 loss to the Swiss.
Andre Silva scored the winner with a header from close range after a cross by Ronaldo just three minutes into the second half in Budapest.
Faroe Islands on historic run
FaGilli Soerensen scored a first-half winner and the Faroe Islands defeated Andorra 1-0 to guarantee its best qualifying campaign ever.
With two games left, the Faeroe Islands is in fourth place and out of contention for a World Cup berth, but it already has eight points — one more than it achieved ahead of the 2002 World Cup.
Lars Olsen’s team had also beaten Latvia earlier in its campaign, and drawn with Andorra and Hungary.
Its final games are against Latvia and at Hungary.
Andorra has four points from a win over Hungary and a draw against the Faeroe Islands.