Mercurial Mbappe sends France into quarter-finals

Mercurial Mbappe sends France into quarter-finals

France stormed into the quarter-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar with their dominant 3-1 victory over Poland in the last 16 on Sunday. It was a historic night for Les Bleus as Olivier Giroud overtook Thierry Henry to become France’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 52 goals. The 36-year-old’s first-half strike was followed up by two sensational goals from Kylian Mbappe, who became the fastest player to score nine goals at the FIFA World Cup.

Robert Lewandowski grabbed a late consolation for Poland in injury time, with the Barcelona striker converting his penalty to put the only blemish on another wise comfortable night for Didier Deschamps’ side.

France got off to a blazing start to this last 16 clash, with Mbappe’s speed troubling Polish right back Matty Cash. However, Poland retained their threat through star striker Robert Lewandowski, who had a long-range effort drift wide off the post in the 21st minute. Wojciech Szczesny continued his stellar form in the tournament with a magnificent save at his near post to deny Mbappe before Poland had the best chance of the first half, as Hugo Lloris denied Piotr Zielinski before Raphael Varane made a crucial goal-line clearance. 

France eventually broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time. Mbappe found Giroud with a sumptuous pass and the striker beat Wojciech Szczesny with a clever finish to notch his third goal of the tournament and become the oldest goal-scorer at the knockout stages of a World Cup.

The defending champions dominated the proceedings in the second period. Antoine Griezmann had a free kick blocked by Szczesny early on in the half, but the Polish shot-stopper could do nothing about the two late strikes from Kylian Mbappe.

The 23-year-old grabbed his first of the night from a devastating counter in the 74th minute, receiving a pass from Ousmane Dembele before rifling his shot into the top corner in stunning fashion to double the French lead. 15 minutes later, Mbappe doubled his own tally with another equally impressive strike from the edge of the box into the top corner. The twin strikes from Mbappe took him to the top of the scoring charts for this World Cup with five goals.

Les Bleus were denied a clean sheet in the dying embers of the game, with Dayot Upamecano’s handball giving Poland a penalty after a VAR check. Robert Lewandowski had his initial penalty saved by Hugo Lloris, but the spot kick had to be retaken as the French goalkeeper came off his line, and the forward made no mistake on the second time of asking.

This result keeps France’s hopes of defending their crown alive at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and Didier Deschamps’ side will face England in the quarter-finals on Saturday at the Al Bayt Stadium.