France secured qualification from their World Cup group with a tight victory against Denmark (2-1). Kylian Mbappé scored both goals on the night and moved level with Zinédine Zidane with 31 goals for Les Bleus.
Chances were at a premium in a cagey first half. Much of France’s joy came from set pieces, taken by Antoine Griezmann on the night after a failed experiment saw Mbappé on free-kick duties against Australia. One such free-kick found the head of Adrien Rabiot, whose shot was easily palmed away by Kasper Schmeichel.
Denmark were arguably lucky to finish the half with 11 men on the pitch after Andreas Christensen rugby-tackled Mbappé, who was in on goal. The referee, however, adjudged the Barcelona defender not to be the last man. As the half wore on, France were increasingly imposing but failed to create any clear-cut chances, but Denmark gave a reminder of their counter-attacking threat when Cornelius ran at the back line before rifling a shot just wide.
France lacked intensity in the opening moments of the second half, but as Mbappé came to life, as did France. The PSG forward missed arguably France’s biggest chance in the first half, but he made no mistake with his second chance as he converted Hernández’s cut-back inside the box.
Denmark haven’t lost in their last three matches against France and did the double over Les Bleus in their recent Nations League campaign. It looked like they would extend their unbeaten run when Christensen, perhaps lucky to be on the pitch, equalised from a corner.
Denmark continued to threaten and could have even taken the lead, but failed to take their half-chances. Instead, it was France who delivered the knockout blow. Griezmann, who was a notch above the rest on the night, laid an inch-perfect cross into the patch of Mbappé, who bundled the ball home from close range to ensure qualification.
France player ratings:
Hugo Lloris – 5 – He couldn’t have done much with the equaliser, but made the crucial save to prevent France going behind just minutes later.
Theo Hernández – 7 – The marauding left-back was a threat throughout. The AC Milan player now has six assists in nine caps for France after one of many forward runs was rewarded. Having been fed the ball in the box, he cut back perfectly for Mbappé, who made no mistake with the finish. Although defensively questionable on a couple of occasions, his positioning was generally good, and Denmark had little joy down his wing.
Dayot Upamecano – 7 – His finest match in a France shirt. Composed an imposing, Denmark found no joy against the Bayern Munich centre-back. His range of passing was also an outlet for France, who could count on him to begin attacks from deep. Being beaten at a corner, which was flicked on for Christensen to score, was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect report.
Raphaël Varane – 5 – Much was made of his return, but it was his centre-back partner who stood out against Denmark. A solid albeit unspectacular performance from the Manchester United man, who didn’t manage to play the full 90.
Jules Koundé – 4 – A real problem area for France. Benjamin Pavard didn’t convince against Australia, and Koundé didn’t emphatically state his claim to start in France’s final group stage match against Tunisia. Unspectacular and uninspiring, he made no errors of note, but nor did he provide any offensive thrust down the right. He got into a dangerous area in the first half, but his harmless, floating cross only further highlighted what France lack in that area of the pitch.
Adrien Rabiot – 4 – Following one of his finest France performances against Australia, Rabiot was brought back down to earth against Denmark. He failed to impose himself on the game as play largely passed him by for large periods. He was at fault for not telegraphing Christensen’s run for the equaliser, and he wasn’t tight enough in the defensive phases throughout, notably for Jesper Lindstrom’s chance to put Denmark ahead. Luckily, Lloris made the stop to prevent France going behind.
Aurélien Tchouaméni – 5
Kylian Mbappé – 7 – The PSG forward was wasteful and quiet in the first half. He missed Les Bleus’ biggest chance when he blazed over inside the box, and he failed to influence proceedings. An impressive dribble after turning Joachim Andersen inside out represented somewhat of an awakening for Mbappé, who got on the scoresheet minutes later with a neat finish. He then made the right run, at the right time to bundle Griezmann’s inch-perfect cross into the back of the net. Not Mbappé’s finest performance, but a decisive double for the PSG man.
Antoine Griezmann – 8 – The Ateltico Madrid man has really settled into his midfield role. Much of his pressing in the opening moments of the match was ineffective, but as the game wore on, he became more and more effective, both in attack and in defence. By the second half, he was comfortably the most imposing figure on the pitch and dictated the rhythm of the game. His set pieces were a major source of threat, but it was a cross from open play that gave France the victory. His ball was inch perfect for Mbappé, who just needed to get a touch to divert the ball into the back of the net. Griezmann now has 26 assists for France.
Ousmane Dembélé – 7 – The Barcelona winger was highly influential in the match’s opening stages, catching the eye with a couple of mazy runs from deep. His end product has massively improved. He didn’t register a goal or an assist in the last World Cup in Russia, but he was the architect of many of France’s most dangerous moments. Being the most eye-catching dribbler in a side that contains Mbappé is no easy feat.
Olivier Giroud – 4 – A quiet night for the record-chasing Giroud. He failed to influence France’s build-up as he did against Australia, and only received one half-chance, where he dallied and failed to get a shot away. The French all-time leading goalscorer record must wait for at least another game.
Others: Thuram (5), Coman (N/A), Konaté (N/A), Y. Fofana (N/A)
GFFN | Luke Entwistle