France 2-1 Denmark: Unstoppable Kylian Mbappe fires World Cup holders into last-16 with superb brace

Lionel Messi is struggling for survival at the World Cup, Neymar is at the center of another injury scare and Cristiano Ronaldo does not even have a club to call his own.

The old order is rapidly fading and as the battle for the succession quickens, Kylian Mbappe is leading the charge of the pursuers.

At Stadium 974, an island of austerity amid the lavish construction projects of this World Cup, an arena built from old shipping containers, Mbappe dazzled the supporters who had streamed here to the shoreline of the Arabian Gulf with both of the goals that took the world champions beyond a stubborn, dogged Denmark side whose resistance was only broken late on in their 2-1 defeat.

Kylian Mbappe scored a magnificent double to help inspire France to a 2-1 win over Denmark

The Paris Saint-Germain star netted close to the end to help secure the Qatar World Cup win

The Paris Saint-Germain star netted close to the end to help secure the Qatar World Cup win

Les Bleus manager Didier Deschamps (right) congratulated his star player after the match

Les Bleus manager Didier Deschamps (right) congratulated his star player after the match

Mbappe and Ecuador’s Enner Valencia are now the tournament’s leading goalscorers with three goals each but Mbappe’s brace here took him to seven goals in World Cups already.

Only he and Pele have scored that many in football’s biggest competition before they reach the age of 25. He has now scored 50 goals for club and country in a calendar year for the first time.

Match Facts: France 2-1 Denmark, Stadium 974

France (4-2-3-1): Lloris 7; Kounde 6, Varane 6 (Konate 75, 6), Upamecano 7, T Hernandez 7; Tchouameni 7, Rabiot 8; Dembele 7 (Coman 75, 6), Griezmann 8 (Fofana 90+3), Mbappe 9; Giroud 6 (Thuram 63, 6).

Subs not used: Mandanda, Areola; Pavard, Disasi, Guendouzi, Kolo Muani, Veretout, Saliba, Camavinga.

Goals: Mbappe 61, 86.

Yellow cards: Kounde 43.

Manager: Didier Deschamps.

Denmark (3-4-2-1): Schmeichel 7; Andersen 7, A Christensen 7, Nelson 6; Kristensen 7 (Bah 90+2), Hojbjerg 7, Eriksen 8, Maehle 7; Lindstrom 6 (Norgaard 85, 6), Damsgaard 6 (Dolberg 73, 6); Cornelius 5 (Braithwaite 45, 6).

Subs not used: O Christensen, Ronnow; Kjaer, Jensen, Skov Olsen, Stryger Larsen, Wass, Wind, Poulsen, Skov.

Goals: Christensen 68.

Yellow cards: Christensen 20, Cornelius 23.

Manager: Kasper Hjulmand.

Referees: Szymon Marciniak 8.

Perhaps it has harmed Mbappe’s ability to emerge from the giant shadow cast by Messi and Ronaldo that he has played his football in the comparative backwater of Ligue 1 with PSG and that his club has never been able to win the Champions League.

But when he reaches the big stage, just as he did in Russia four years ago, he has a habit of fighting it.

He was quicksilver and brilliant on Saturday night, a darting, mesmerizing, elusive presence that turned even the redoubtable Denmark defense to rubble in the end.

‘I don’t see a weakness in his game,’ Alan Shearer said on BBC Radio 5 Live during the game.

Neither of his goals were spectacular but both were finishes born of improvisation and instinct.

He took the 2018 World Cup by storm and he is threatening to do the same here.

France’s victory, on the back of their opening win over Australia, means they have already qualified for the last 16 of this World Cup with one game to spare.

If they get through their second round tie and if England recover well from their recent blip against the USA, the two sides may yet meet in the quarter finals.

It is not a prospect that Gareth Southgate and his squad would relish.

France look just as good, perhaps better, than they did in Russia in 2018, even without the injured Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba.

They are beautifully balanced and Mbappe’s supporting cast boasts the grace and elegance of Antoine Griezmann, the virtuoso skills of Ousmane Dembele and the aerial strength of Olivier Giroud.

Brazil may be the favorites but it is not hard to imagine France becoming the first team since Brazil did it in 1958 and 1962 to win back-to-back World Cups.

France came close to opening the scoring in the 13th minute when Griezmann, whose dead ball delivery is so flat and fast and dangerous and accurate, curled in a corner from the France right which was flicked on by Raphael Varane at the near post.

Andreas Christensen was booked early on for hauling Mbappe down in a sort of rugby tackle

Andreas Christensen was booked early on for hauling Mbappe down in a sort of rugby tackle

France argued that Barcelona center half Christensen should have been shown a red card for it

France argued that Barcelona center half Christensen should have been shown a red card for it

Giroud tried to prod it in at the back post but Joakim Maehle made a superb intervention to hook it off the line and clear.

Griezmann was the architect again a couple of minutes later when he picked the ball up deep inside the France half and clipped a brilliant ball inside Andreas Christensen with the outside of his left foot.

The ball curled around Christensen and Mbappe raced on to it. It looked as if he would be clean through on goal but Christensen brought him down before he could progress any further. He was booked.

France kept pressing. Dembele had made a bright start on the France right and now he turned cut in from the touchline and curled a ball to the near post. Adrien Rabiot put it firmly with his head and the ball was hurtling into the net before Kasper Schmeichel produced an acrobatic flying save to push it out.

The atmosphere was electric inside Stadium 974 in Doha, with the French fans loud throughout

The atmosphere was electric inside Stadium 974 in Doha, with the French fans loud throughout

Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen (left) showed several nice touches in the game

Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen (left) showed several nice touches in the game

Denmark center forward Andreas Cornelius, whose only mark on the match up to this point had been made on the shin of Giroud with his upturned studs, brought a brief respite from the France siege when he whistled a shot just wide of Hugo Lloris’s right hand post .

Then Rasmus Kristensen nutmegged Theo Hernandez and drilled in a cross that no one met. Kristensen was not impressed.

Mbappe should have done better than blaze a cross from Dembele high over the bar from the edge of the area. When he tried to atone for that, on the stroke of half time, slamming in a goalbound shot from 20 yards out, it hit Giroud on the shoulder as he tried to duck out of the way and trickled out for a goal kick.

Denmark improved after the break and had more of the ball without ever threatening the France goal but when the World Cup holders weathered that spell of pressure, they hit back and broke the deadlock.

France's breakthrough came after the hour mark when Lucas Hernandez fed Mbappe to score

France’s breakthrough came after the hour mark when Lucas Hernandez fed Mbappe to score

Former Chelsea star Christensen equalized seven minutes later, nodding home from a corner

Former Chelsea star Christensen equalized seven minutes later, nodding home from a corner

Griezmann should have scored when he burst clear but he lifted his shot high over the bar with only Schmeichel to beat. That was only a brief reprieve for Denmark.

Mbappe, who has been full of verve and brilliance in the early stages of this tournament, broke down the left and cut inside on to his right foot. Theo Hernandez, deputizing for his injured brother, Lucas, burst past him and Mbappe played the ball inside the full back for him to run on to.

Hernandez cut it back into the path of Mbappe and Mbappe stabbed it past Schmeichel with the help of a slight deflection. It was his 30th goal for France.

Six minutes later, Denmark were level. Eriksen floated a corner in from the right and Joachim Andersen rose majestically at the near post to nod it across the goal. It bounced once before Christensen, the former Chelsea defender, ran on to it, thrust his head between flying feet and directed it into the roof of the net past Lloris.

France became the first side to progress into the last-16 knockout stage in the Middle East

France became the first side to progress into the last-16 knockout stage in the Middle East

While Kasper Hjulmand's Danes need to beat Australia in their final group game to progress

While Kasper Hjulmand’s Danes need to beat Australia in their final group game to progress

Now the chances came thick and fast. Aurelien Tchouameni flung himself at a Griezmann corner and even though Maehle had turned his back on the ball, it hit him and bounced out for a corner.

Rabiot hooked a spectacular overhead kick just too high and, at the other end, second half substitute Braithwaite tried to turn in a cross at the near post but clipped it inches wide of the post.

France would not be denied. Four minutes from the end, Griezmann, again, played a searching, flat, curling, indefensible cross into the area and Mbappe rushed in to meet it.

He got ahead of his marker and even though he couldn’t get a boot or his head to the ball, he nudged the ball past Schmeichel and into the net off his right thigh from point blank range.

Missed any of the action? Catch up with Sportsmail’s live blog for the World Cup Group D clash between France and Denmark, with coverage from MAX MATTHEWS.

.

Leave a Comment