World champions France took another step towards defending their crown in Qatar as they ran out 2-1 winners over Denmark at Stadium 974 in Doha this evening.
Didier Deschamps’ men, who became the first round of 16 participants, head into the knockout phase as Group D winners. Kylian Mbappé, as he’s often been on so many occasions, was the difference-maker bagging a brace that saw him equal Zinedine Zidane on France’s all-time scorers’ list with 31 goals.
After huffing and puffing for the better part of an hour Mbappé eventually broke the deadlock following a neat one-two with Theo Hernandez who started today’s showdown in place of brother Lucas whose tournament is over after sustaining a ligament injury during their 4-1 win against Australia earlier in the week.
Equally standing out was Aurelien Tchouameni; the 22-year-old Real Madrid defensive midfielder was effortless when retaining and recycling possession helping France control the game’s tempo and restricting Kasper Hjulmand’s side to minimal chances in open play, but their (against the run of play) equaliser came from a corner.
Christian Eriksen’s delivery was met by Joachim Andersen who flicked a header towards the six-yard box where Andreas Christensen converted a headed finish. It shouldn’t come as a surprise given how set-pieces were a huge part of Denmark’s success at last year’s Euros. But you can’t keep a would-be future Ballon d’Or recipient down. Antoine Griezmann’s cross in the 86th minute found Mbappé, who got in between Kristensen and Schmeichel, to bundle in his third goal of this World Cup finals.
Kylian Mbappé's game by numbers vs Denmark.
90.32% passing accuracy
10 touches in opp. box
5 duels won
4 shots on target
3 chances created
He really is that guy. ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/lGRgzysVPb
— Squawka (@Squawka) November 26, 2022
This effort goal means Mbappé becomes only the second player to reach seven World Cup goals before the age of 25. The other? That would be none other than Pele. “What a player, what a superstar,” Alan Shearer commented on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“He made the difference tonight. They were asked the question when Denmark got back into the game, what have you got? Didier Deschamps made a couple of changes and they worked perfectly. When you’ve got that guy in your team in the form that he’s in – he looks so comfortable and confident in front of goal – you’ve got a chance. He won the game for them.”
Mbappe subsequently becomes France’s second-top scorer in World Cup history with seven, despite this only being his second tournament. However, the man he trails, Just Fontaine, only played at one World Cup. Fontaine scored a crazy 13 goals across six games in 1958.
Consequently, who joins France hangs in the balance heading into the final round of fixtures. Australia, the Danes and Tunisia can all still go through. Les Bleus now face Tunisia with the Eagles of Carthage knowing they must win to have any chance of making the knockout rounds. Deschamps will be pleased that progression was settled today meaning there’s an opportunity for key players to rest on matchday three.