Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud guide Didier Deschamps’ side to victory in the Nations League
France kept their hopes of staying in the top tier of the Nations League alive as goals by Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud secured a 2-0 home victory over Austria on Thursday.
PSG forward Mbappe opened the scoring with another stunning goal before AC Milan star Giroud, who again showed coach Didier Deschamps he is more than a third-choice forward, sealed the world champions’ win with a header.
France, who travel to Denmark on Sunday, climbed to third in Group 1 with five points from as many games.
Victory came at a price, however, as defender Jules Kounde and goalkeeper Mike Maignan sustained injuries, and may join Karim Benzema, Hugo Lloris and Paul Pogba on the sidelines.
The hosts, who had lost two and drawn two of their four previous games, came out with all guns blazing at the Stade de France.
Mbappe fired a shot into the top corner in the second minute but the effort was disallowed for offside.
Aurelien Tchouameni’s attempt from just outside the box after a quick combination between Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe was tipped over by Austria keeper Patrick Pentz as Les Bleus piled on the pressure.
Defender Kounde became the latest casualty in an injury-ravaged squad when he limped off the pitch with a muscle problem and Maignan was replaced by Alphonse Areola at halftime due to a calf pain.
Mbappe, denied by Pentz after a one-two with Giroud, tormented the Austrian defence with his pace and created space for his team mates, Jonathan Clauss just missing out on a goal early in the second half.
Mbappe broke the deadlock with a cool finish after beating five defenders following a perfect pass from Giroud.
It spurred Austria into action but they lacked accuracy in the box and it was France who scored again.
Giroud found the back of the net in the 65th minute from Griezmann’s pin-point cross for his 49th international goal, two shy of Thierry Henry’s national record.
The AC Milan striker was replaced by Ousmane Dembele to the Stade de France crowd’s standing ovation, leaving Deschamps, who has only called up Giroud in the absence of Benzema, with a tricky decision before November’s World Cup.
Croatia lead the group following a 2-1 win against Denmark, who would have sealed top spot themselves had they won in Zagreb.
Defender Borna Sosa put the hosts ahead with his first international goal. Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen levelled with a sensational long-range strike, but two minutes later Lovro Majer scored the winner from outside the box.
Croatia just need to beat Austria on Sunday to qualify for next year’s finals and book a Euro 2024 play-off place.