Kylian Mbappe scored a stunning opening goal as France shook off injuries to a host of key players and a series of off-field issues to claim a welcome 2-0 win over Austria in the UEFA Nations League in Paris on Thursday.
Mbappe showcased his phenomenal pace and strength on the way before finishing emphatically to put the reigning world champions ahead in the 56th minute at the Stade de France.
The recalled Olivier Giroud doubled their lead nine minutes later as France ran out deserved winners to stave off the threat of relegation from the top tier of the Nations League, a competition they won just last year.
“We did what we needed to do to get the victory, creating lots of chances and controlling the match,” said coach Didier Deschamps.
“There are lots of positives to take from the game.”
Deschamps’ side still need to win their last Group A1 game away in Denmark on Sunday to be certain of avoiding relegation, while qualification for the four-team finals next June is already out of reach.
Giroud closes on goals record
Olivier Giroud became the oldest scorer in France’s history as they beat Austria to boost their hopes of avoiding Nations League relegation.
At 35 years and 357 days, he is 70 days older than Roger Marche was when he scored against Spain in December 1959.
Giroud set up Mbappe for a fine opener, taking on several defenders before firing in from 16 yards. He then marked his return to the side by heading in Griezmann’s cross to make it 2-0 with his 49th international goal. He is now just two shy of Thierry Henry’s French record of 51.
Netherlands see off Poland
The Netherlands beat Poland 2-0 in Warsaw on Thursday to move closer to qualification for the Nations League finals, as Cody Gakpo and Steven Bergwijn continued their excellent starts to the season.
Louis van Gaal’s men maintained their three-point lead over Belgium, who edged out Wales 2-1, at the top of Group A4.
They will need only a point from their last game against the Belgians in Amsterdam on Sunday to be sure of securing top spot.
Belgium edge Wales
Kevin De Bruyne scored one goal and made the other for Belgium to secure a rare 2-1 win over Wales in Brussels and keep the Red Devils’ slim chance of reaching the Nations League semi-finals alive.
Belgium were missing one of their key men in Romelu Lukaku, but Michy Batshuayi stepped up to replace the Inter Milan striker to continue his excellent goalscoring record at international level.
Batshuayi played provider for the opening goal as his pass was superbly stroked into the bottom corner by De Bruyne on 10 minutes.
The same two players combined for the second goal eight minutes before half-time as this time De Bruyne’s teasing cross left Batshuayi with a tap-in for his 26th international goal in 46 appearances.
Kieffer Moore got one back for Wales but it wasn’t enough as Belgium won 2-1.