France took control of Group I in European Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ as they eased to a 3-1 victory over Georgia in Paris. With Spain held by Finland, France moved two points clear at the top of the group before the two teams meet at the Stade de France on Tuesday night.
Despite Didier Deschamps' men controlling possession, it took them until first-half stoppage time to take the lead through Olivier Giroud. But goals early in the second half from the outstanding Mathieu Valbuena and Franck Ribery put them in control before Alexander Kobakhidze got one back for the visitors.
However, there was no joy for the struggling Karim Benzema, who passed up several opportunities to end an international goal drought which stretches back to last June.
Ribery struck the bar with the first clear chance in the sixth minute, cutting in from the left to curl a shot over the goalkeeper. Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba both had chances for debut goals, but Varane did not strike it cleanly from a corner and the ball bounced off defensive partner Mamadou Sakho, while Pogba caught his shot well from the edge of the area but sent it straight at Giorgi Loria.
In between times, Benzema missed the best of his chances, shooting straight at the goalkeeper when Giroud found him in space just six yards from goal. Georgia almost made them pay when Kobakhidze's excellent cross found Aleksandr Amisulashvili close to goal, and Hugo Lloris had to be alert to keep the visiting captain's header out.
Giroud's blushes were spared by an offside flag after an awful miss before Benzema fluffed another chance, striking the ball off the inside of his own foot after a fine burst forward from Gael Clichy, attacking the first boos of the night.
Georgia then threatened again with Kobakhidze battling Blaise Matuidi for the ball and then striking a fine shot which Lloris did well to palm away. It went for a corner from which Mate Vatsadze headed wide having found space.
Instead, France took the lead in first-half stoppage time when Valbuena won a free-kick and then floated it on to the head of Giroud to flick into the far corner.
They doubled their lead early in the second half with Valbuena doing all the hard work himself this time, controlling Ribery's pass wonderfully before firing a first-time shot beyond the reach of the goalkeeper.
Benzema was clean through in the 55th minute but hit an unconvincing shot at the goalkeeper, but Ribery made no mistake in scoring a third just after the hour mark.
Again Valbuena was at the heart of it, playing a beautiful cross-field pass into the Bayern Munich man's path, then watching as he cut inside Zurab Khizanishvili to score at the near post.
Kobakhidze had been Georgia's best player and got a deserved goal 20 minutes from time, even if it came in fortunate circumstances as the ball struck Sakho and sat up for him to lash in from close range.
France probed for a fourth without creating a clean chance, but a solid performance combined with the news from Spain was already enough to make this a highly satisfactory evening.