Barcola? Giroud? Kolo Muani? How will France replace Kylian Mbappé at Euro 2024?

France were far from spectacular as they opened their Euro 2024 campaign against a spirited Austria. Still, as is so often the case with this Didier Deschamps’ side they did enough as they recorded a victory by capitalising on an inexplicable own-goal as Maximilian Wöber deflected in a Kylian Mbappé cross. 

However, the result would not be the story in the hours that followed the game, as a few minutes from the end of regulation time, France were met with a wave of panic as Mbappé broke his nose in an accidental collision with Kevin Danso. 

The France captain was left bloodied as he was forced off the pitch, although he had the foresight to infuriate the Austrians as he leapt back onto the field to delay the game and cause a pause in play for the French substitutes to be allowed into the match. 

For all of France’s myriad talents, there was a sudden vulnerability to the country as Mbappé was booed down the tunnel by a rabid Austrian crowd now baying for the blood that the forward was trying desperately to stem. A nation that has become accustomed to winning with its talismanic superstar was suddenly left wondering what life would be like without him. 

Kylian Mbappé set to make a return 

Positive news followed his scans at Düsseldorf’s University Hosptial, and Mbappé will return during the duration of this tournament. However, the timeline remains unclear and it is suspected that he will miss France’s remaining group games. This leaves a pressing question for Deschamps and the nation at large; who could replace Mbappé in the line-up? 

There is no like-for-like replacement for Mbappé (a problem that Paris Saint-Germain are set to encounter this summer). However, there are alternative options that the France team can take, with one of the more interesting choices being to play Bradley Barcola on the left of the front three. The PSG man has had an excellent season for the French champions on the left of the attack, and it would be a move that could allow winger-turned-striker Marcus Thuram to play as the number-nine in lieu of Mbappé. 

This decision would perhaps provide the most similar lineup to the one Deschamps chose for the Austria game as it would produce a similarly flexible and fluid feel to the attack that Mbappé brought, although there would be some questions over how potent it could be without the France captain’s goal-scoring pedigree. 

The familiar face for France 

However, the most likely choice for Deschamps to make would be for the manager to turn to the player who replaced Mbappé in the game against Austria: France’s all-time top goal scorer, Olivier Giroud. Despite the striker turning 37 last September, he featured prominently throughout the nation’s qualification campaign, as well as during the preparatory friendlies in the buildup to the competition. 

There will be a slight concern for Deschamps that fielding a front three of Thuram, Giroud, and Ousmane Dembélé in the match against the Netherlands on Friday could provide a similar listless result to the only other time this front three have been in operation – a terrible 0-0 draw against Canada earlier this month. This could suggest a more dramatic shakeup is at hand for France if Deschamps does not trust this triumvirate, as the head coach is no stranger to experimenting with his system mid-tournament. 

The final choice appears the least likely, albeit Randal Kolo Muani is still highly appreciated by the national team set-up despite his difficult debut season for the French champions. It feels more likely that the forward will have a prominent role off the bench while Mbappé is injured, although the Kolo Muani has previously led the line for Les Bleus against the Netherlands in their 2-1 victory in October. 

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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