After a scorching few months in the France squad camp, there were plenty of positives to take away from France’s 2-0 win over Austria in Nations League Group A on Thursday.
A powerful strike from Kylian Mbappé and a trademark header from Olivier Giroud was enough to see Didier Deschamps’ side edge Austria to the bottom of their Nations League group as the world champions seek to avoid relegation in the competition after a dismal campaign.
In front of a delirious public at the Stade de France, the Blues dominated from start to finish.
Mbappé was disallowed a goal for offside in the second minute and Aurélien Tchouaméni went close twice in the first half.
The Real Madrid midfielder netted a long-range strike just over the bar in the 12th minute, and just after the half-hour mark Tchouaméni came close to scoring one of the goals of the year when his bicycle kick was superbly tipped over the bar of Austrian rookie goalkeeper Patrick Pentz.
The home side continued to dominate after the break, with Mbappé in particular eyeing his sensational record – and it was the Paris Saint-Germain striker who broke the deadlock in the 56th minute with a powerful drive just outside. inside the area following a French counter-attack. .
Just 10 minutes later, Giroud sealed the victory with a fine header as he looked on from an Antoine Griezmann cross. The goal makes Giroud the oldest goalscorer in France’s history at 35 years and 357 days, while taking the Milan striker’s tally to just two behind Thierry Henry’s all-time French record of 51.
Deschamps was optimistic after the game about his team’s performance.
“We did what we had to do,” he said. “Our intentions were good, everyone defended a lot, there are a lot of positives. The spirit was good, it was a very good performance.
And the former World Cup winner will have to take as many positives as possible.
A few months before the World Cup, the national team is missing a host of players including: Hugo Lloris, Rafaël Varane, Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kanté, Lucas and Theo Hernández and Karim Benzema. Things got worse when Mike Maignan and Jules Koundé were ejected from the match due to injuries.
The injury crisis is just one of many issues Deschamps faces as he seeks to retain the World Cup in Qatar.
On Tuesday alone, Mbappé refused to take part in a photo op with some of the team’s sponsors amid an ongoing image rights issue. The Paris Saint-Germain star was finally appeased and took part after being promised by the French Football Federation that they would look into the matter.
That – coupled with the continuing problems facing Pogba, whose brother was detained for the alleged extortion of the Juventus midfielder – has put unnecessary pressure on France ahead of a World Cup that they will be among the favorites a win.
Things haven’t been rosy on the pitch either. The Nations League champions had an abysmal start to their group in which they picked up just two draws and two losses in four matches before victory on Thursday.
One point ahead of Austria in the relegation zone ahead of the final group game, France will be looking to build on their momentum from last night’s game as they head to Denmark who are just one point away group leader Croatia.
The world champion has had a bad year so far but if he can end his World Cup preparations on the pitch positively, maybe his problems off the pitch will fade as well.