Masked Mbappé trains for Netherlands match at Euro 2024, coach optimistic he'll play

LEIPZIG, Germany (AP) — Kylian Mbappé trained wearing a blue, white and red face mask with the rest of his teammates on Thursday ahead of France's game against the Netherlands at Euro 2024.

France coach Didier Deschamps said he assumes his star player will be available for Friday's game.

Mbappé spent some time fidgeting with his new headgear before he joined his teammates in running exercises. He lifted it up to speak to Olivier Giroud, then put it back on again as he stretched between Giroud and Antoine Griezmann.

Some of his teammates appeared to be poking fun at the forward, who effectively had the French flag on his face — blue over his right eye, and red over his left.

But Mbappé seemed fully integrated with the rest of the team as he trained with the group after the stretching.

Deschamps sounded confident that Mbappé will play.

“Everything is going well, after the shock we had. He was able to take part is some light exercises yesterday and that will be the same this evening. Everything is evolving in the right direction,” Deschamps said before the training session. “We’ll do all we can to ensure that he’ll be available tomorrow.”

Mbappé broke his nose in France's opening 1-0 win over Austria on Monday when his face collided with Austria defender Kevin Danso’s shoulder as he was trying to head the ball. Blood stained his white France jersey. If he plays Friday, he’ll need to wear a mask.

“Kylian will be wearing a mask,” Deschamps confirmed to journalists. “We don’t need to know the details of this mask. I think you have enough moles to know where the mask is coming from.”

Mbappé returned to light training on Wednesday after undergoing tests on his nose injury.

Buildup to Friday’s match has been dominated by speculation on whether or not the France captain can play.

“Without risks, there are no victories,” Mbappé had written on Instagram.

If he does play, the Real Madrid-bound star will hope to finally score at a European Championship at the sixth attempt. Mbappé has 47 goals in 80 games for France, including 12 in qualifying for the Euros, but he’s yet to score in five games at the tournament.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman was coy about whether he'd like Mbappé to play.

The France forward scored two and set up another goal as Les Bleus routed the Netherlands 4-0 at home in qualifying, then scored both goals as France defeated Koeman’s team 2-1 in Amsterdam. The Dutch were group runners-up.

“France is such a strong team, that even if Mbappé is not playing, the substitute will be a great player as well," Koeman said. “All we can do is try to influence our team and prepare ourselves as best as we can. Not everything depends on whether Mbappé is there or not. We know that he can be a game changer. He had a big influence on the last two games, two qualification games, but it doesn’t depend on us."

France and the Netherlands are level on three points in Group D. The Dutch came from behind to beat Poland 2-1 and France needed an own goal to beat Austria.

France has won seven of the teams’ last eight meetings.


AP Euro 2024:

Ciarán Fahey, The Associated Press