Group A favourites France did not have it all their own way against Luxembourg, but Didier Deschamps’ side took another step towards Russia.
France recorded an unconvincing 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over a tenacious Luxembourg, who gave their illustrious opponents a scare after drawing level at Stade Josy Barthel.
Didier Deschamps fielded an array of attacking talent as France laboured to restore their outright lead in Group A after Sweden’s 4-0 thrashing of Belarus earlier on Saturday.
But it was not until the 28th minute that Olivier Giroud ended Luxembourg’s stubborn resistance with a close-range finish after the hosts had lost goalkeeper Anthony Moris to injury.
Luc Holtz’s side remained undaunted, though, and remarkably drew level after Blaise Matuidi gave away a penalty and Aurelien Joachim scored from the spot.
It did not take long for normal service to be resumed, with Antoine Griezmann also netting from 12 yards after Daniel Da Mota’s foul on Djibril Sidibe.
The Euro 2016 runners-up still could not find their rhythm in the second half, with Luxembourg sporadically threatening, while the likes of Griezmann, Dimitri Payet and Ousmane Dembele struggled to make a telling impact.
It was Giroud’s header that finally settled matters 13 minutes from time and Deschamps had the luxury of giving Monaco star Kylian Mbappe his international debut in the closing stages.
Hugo Lloris was surprisingly called into action before his opposite number, making a comfortable near-post save from Stefano Bensi’s strike at the end of a promising run into the box.
Luxembourg did well to stifle any early threat from the visitors, but Chris Philipps resorted to foul means to halt Dembele and Griezmann swung the resulting free-kick narrowly over the crossbar.
The highly sought-after Atletico Madrid forward then fluffed his lines when in position to lob Moris, who appeared to injure his knee in the incident, which ultimately brought an end to his outing after 21 minutes.
Replacement Ralph Schon was picking the ball out of his net within seven minutes of coming on, Sidibe stretching to cut a cross back for Giroud to apply a simple finish.
Holtz’s men enjoyed a moment to savour in the 34th minute when Joachim calmly sent Lloris the wrong way from the spot after Matuidi’s clumsy challenge on Christopher Martins.
But Luxembourg were brought back down to earth within three minutes, Da Mota’s mis-timed slide tackle bringing down Sidibe for a spot-kick, which Griezmann converted.
France made an uninspiring start to the second half and suffered the blow of losing Sidibe to an injury just past the hour mark, with Lyon veteran Christophe Jallet on in his place.
Schon had to be alert to deny Griezmann soon after as France tried to increase their advantage in the final quarter of a lacklustre showing against a side with one point to their name.
It was credit to Luxembourg that the game entered the closing stages still in the balance, as a home crowd sensed the possibility of a shock.
But Giroud’s header from debutant Benjamin Mendy’s left-wing delivery put paid to those hopes and Mbappe almost announced himself on the international stage in style, but saw his shot tipped over.