RAS ABU ABOUD, Qatar — France are the first team to book their place in the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup after beating Denmark 2-1 on Saturday thanks to a brace from Kylian Mbappe.
– World Cup 2022: News and features | Schedule | Squads
The Paris Saint-Germain talisman opened the scoring in the 61st minute, converting a fine pass from Theo Hernandez, but the lead would last only seven minutes before Denmark center-back Andreas Christensen equalized. The sides looked destined to share the spoils before Mbappe scored his second of the game, popping up at the back post on 86 minutes to earn France all three points and a place in the knockout rounds.
JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures
1. France first into knockout rounds as Mbappe stars again
Mbappe, the Paris-born-and-bred prodigy, has now scored 14 goals in his past 12 games for France. That attacking swag, on display against Australia and always in The Blues‘ back pocket, was there once again.
The big test for France against Denmark was to see if the midfield and the defense could be as strong as the attack. This was to be a referendum on Dayot Upamecano, Adrien Rabiot, Theo Hernandez and Aurelien Tchouameni, and they passed with flying colors — for most of the game.
The way France controlled the Danes was very impressive. The return of Raphael Varane was very important, bringing calm and serenity to the back line, and his partnership with an impressive Upamecano was excellent. The French were dominant in midfield, too, with Tchouameni and Rabiot being fantastic, until the Juventus midfielder forgot to mark Christensen, who scored Denmark’s goal.
Les Bleus didn’t give their opponents much for an hour or so, but what cost them again, like too often in recent months, was set pieces. They were undone by a corner. France manager Didier Deschamps admitted that they could do more to prepare for these moments, and should defend them better too.
There will be time for that. Now, they can focus on celebrating their qualification with a game to spare.
2. Griezmann outstanding in new role
Imagine being 31 years old, playing in your third World Cup and being told by your head coach that you will start in a totally different position than what you have been used to for all your career. That’s what happened to Antoine Griezmann. The Atletico Madrid frontman has played as a striker, a winger or a second striker under Deschamps. Now he can add a No. 8 to that list, and what an impact he is having so far in this World Cup.
Griezmann was outstanding against Australia and even better against Denmark. He made the game more fluid, playing simple one- or two-touch sequences, accelerating the game or slowing it down when needed. He recovered many balls by working hard defensively and also cut out the passing lanes in to Christian Eriksen. His deliveries from set pieces were exceptional, too.
He should have scored, finding himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, but blasted the ball over the bar just before the hour mark. He was the one who recovered the ball before the buildup to France’s first goal. It was Griezmann, too, who provided the assist for Mbappe’s match winner.
This was almost a flawless performance and proof of not only the talent but also the incredible football IQ Griezmann possesses. Few of his peers would be able to make a new position their own on a stage as big as the World Cup.
3. Denmark are still alive
After Mbappe’s first goal, it looked like dark clouds were gathering over Denmark once again. After the terribly poor performance against Tunisia in their first game, which they drew 0-0, they were this time beaten by a superior French team. Yet, they kept fighting after conceding the first goal, striving to keep alive hopes of reaching the next round.
They could have easily given up, but that’s not their style. Instead, they kept going and caused problems for France.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (US)
Denmark scored from a set piece, situations in which they are excellent. They created two big chances, from Jesper Lindstrom and Martin Braithwaite, after two good movements using the half spaces and squaring the ball back in the box.
This will be a tough defeat to take because of how late the Danes conceded, but the players showed that there is still life in this team. They can still qualify for the round of 16, but they will need the help of the French against Tunisia, and they will have to do their bit and beat Australia as well.
After what they showed in the last 30 minutes against France, they can still have hope of reaching the knockout stage.
France: Hugo Lloris 6, Jules Kounde 5, Raphael Varane 6, Dayot Upamecano 7, Theo Hernandez 7, Antoine Griezmann 8, Aurelien Tchouameni 6, Adrien Rabiot 6, Ousmane Dembele 6, Kylian Mbappe 8, Olivier Giroud 5
Subs: Marcus Thuram 5, Kingsley Coman 5, Ibrahima Konate 5, Youssouf Fofana 5
Denmark: Kasper Schmeichel 6, Joachim Andersen 6, Andreas Christensen 6, Victor Nelsson 4, Rasmus Kristensen 5, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg 4, Christian Eriksen 4, Joakim Maehle 4, Jesper Lindstrom 5, Andreas Cornelius 3, Mikkel Damsgaard 3
Subs: Martin Braithwaite 6, Kasper Dolberg 5, Christian Norgaard 5, Alexander Bah 4
Best and worst performers
BEST: Dayot Upamecano, France. The Bayern Munich centre-back was everywhere, so solid, winning all his duels, perfect in his passing, too. His partnership with Varane is going to be excellent.
WORST: Andreas Cornelius, Denmark. The FC Copenhagen striker was taken off at half-time after a terrible first half in which he committed more fouls (3) than he had shots (1) and touches in the French box (2). He also picked up a yellow card and looked like he could have been sent off as well. His team were much better without him.
Highlights and notable moments
Just how good has Mbappe been in this tournament and Russia 2018?
Kylian Mbappe now has more World Cup goals for France than Thierry Henry, who played in four World Cups.
HE’S ONLY 23 YEARS OLD! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/6HNV0eBhyk
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 26, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
Tchouameni: “They had beaten us twice in the Nations League, and we said that this time, it’s the World Cup and it will be different. So we had extra motivation and desire. It was a great performance from us. Kylian is exceptional but everybody stepped up.”
Deschamps: “We are in an ideal position, we are qualified and it’s very likely that we top the group because of our goal difference compared to Australia. The first objective is reached. It’s never easy, especially the critics from former players and former World Cup winners . … This squad is strong, solid and we want to do great things. We have done two already with these two wins.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– Mbappe’s two goals give him seven in his World Cup career. Only Pelé, also with seven, has scored as many goals in the competition before turning 24 years of age.
– With seven goals, Mbappe passed Thierry Henry for the second-most goals scored at a World Cup by a France men’s player.
– Mbappe joins Just Fontaine (4) as the only French players with more than one multigoal World Cup game.
– Mbappe’s three game-winning goals at the World Cup are the most by any France men’s player.
– France improve to 21-0-3 when Mbappe scores.
– France extended their unbeaten streak in the World Cup to nine matches, tied with the Netherlands for the longest active streak and four shy of the record held by Brazil from 1958 to 1966.
France: Les Bleus will close out their group stage on Wednesday against Tunisia, kicking off at 10 am ET at the Education City Stadium.
Denmark: Denmark will return to action on Wednesday at 10 am ET, when they take on Australia as the pair square off to follow France through to the knockout rounds.