France 2 Denmark 1
Mbappe revelling in Qatar spotlight as goals continue to flow
By Jim White
The moment he turned Victor Nelsson and, breaking into space, turned on a stunning burst of pace, the crowd, French and neutral as one, rose in anticipation. This was the Kylian Mbappe they wanted to see – at his electric-heeled best.
And when he exchanged passes with Theo Hernandez and thumped the ball past Kasper Schmeichel, it was almost as if this World Cup had finally come alive. Because this is what we want from our World Cups: the singular talent doing glorious things.
Sure, seeing your own country succeed is a priority for everyone but, after that, how we mark tournaments is by individuals imposing their talent: Pele in 1970, Diego Maradona in 1986, Zinedine Zidane in 1998, the Brazilian Ronaldo in 2002.
Until now, however, the sizable array of those currently capable of joining those World Cup immortals are showing few signs of making their mark in Qatar. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored a penalty, Harry Kane remains goalless, Karim Benzema and Erling Haaland aren’t even here.
Of the superstar contenders, only Mbappe and Lionel Messi are glowing in the desert light. And against a cagey, organised Denmark, how the former glowed.
The thing about Mbappe is when he turns it on, he really turns it on. For much of the game he might seem aloof and apart. But then when the ball arrives at his feet, he is off. Especially if there is a hint of open space ahead of him.
If England are to face France, Gareth Southgate will need to employ an amalgam of Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold to come near to keeping up with him. What is really beginning to suggest Mbappe has it within him to replace Messi and Ronaldo at the very top of the footballing pile, is the manner in which he makes a difference.
After he had given France the lead, Denmark, prompted by Christian Eriksen’s precision, came back into this game. The suspect heart of the French defence was exposed from an Eriksen corner, the kind of frailty in the team that will encourage future opponents.
It looked, for a while, as if Didier Deschamps side were going to sink into lethargy, growing disillusioned that their superiority was not being rewarded. A draw, maybe even an unlikely Denmark win snatched at another set piece, seemed the greatest likelihood.
But Mbappe was having none of it. He fought himself into the midst of the Danish defence and bundled the ball over the line for a late, late winner.
It was not elegant, it was not a contender for a Youtube show reel. It was, rather, a transformative intervention from an increasingly vital player.
Mbappe stars as Les Bleus end Denmark hoodoo
Kylian Mbappe could even be rested for France’s final World Cup first-round game in Group D, although by the look of the man himself he is in the mood for more goals when his side plays Tunisia on Wednesday.
France are already in the second round with a win and two goals from the man who is now the top goalscorer in the competition with three in two games. Mbappe scored both against Denmark, the winner in the 86th minute with a run timed to meet Antoine Griezmann’s ball to the back post.
France were made to work hard by Denmark who beat them twice in the previous Uefa Nations League, although the difference in the quality of the two sides was easy to discern. Mbappe had given France the lead on 61 minutes with a quick shot from Theo Hernandez’s cut-back. Andreas Christensen scored from a corner five minutes later that Joachim Andersen nodded on.
A different level of football from France. Dominant when they were on the ball, it was they who created all the chances. Adrien Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni, the two midfield understudies who have stepped up for the injured N’golo Kante and Paul Pogba, have started the World Cup strongly. They move France forward quickly onto the attacking aspect that they have mastered so well.
Behind the two strikers, Griezmann is a fine No 10. His pass to Mbappe in the 20th minute was the first half’s outstanding moment. It was threaded through Denmark as they chased Mbappe’s run and dropped so invitingly into the stride of the man himself that Christensen had to take a booking to stop the breakaway.
France have, in terms of their priorities on the ball, two very different wingers in Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele. From the right wing, Dembele will look to get to the touchline or pick out the cross. From the left, Mbappe just wants to come inside on his right foot and aim for inside the far post. In the centre Olivier Giroud makes the best of what he gets but either way there are always opportunities.
He had a header well saved by Kasper Schmeichel. Mbappe struck another Dembele cross over the bar. It had slowed a little by the time the first half drew to a close but Denmark had been in trouble at times. They had not managed a shot on target by half-time. Andreas Cornelius, their centre-forward was leaving a boot in whenever the opportunity arose and had already been booked.
Mbappe finally gave France the lead but they had to win it all over again in the last 25 minutes of the match. They could bring on Kingsley Coman and Marcus Thuram to do so, Winning games in this tournament is not simple - but so much easier with Mbappe at your disposal.
France 2 Denmark 1, as it happened
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Mbappe: A generational talent
The winning goal for France
FULL TIME France 2 Denmark 1
It's all over and France deservedly get the win and all three points. Denmark were second best.
90+5mins: France 2 Denmark 1
France seeing this match out very well. They are a minute away from the last-16 of the World Cup.
90+2mins: France 2 Denmark 1
More changes -
Denmark: Kristensen OFF, Bah ON
France: Griezmann OFF, Fofana ON
90mins: France 2 Denmark 1
Into six minutes of added time.
87mins: France 2 Denmark 1
Can Denmark respond again as we enter the closing stages?
85mins: France 2 Denmark 1 GOAL
France back in front.
Griezmann whips a dangerous ball into the back post and Mbappe is there is flick in ahead of the defender.
So alert and sharp.
84mins: France 1 Denmark 1
A change for Denmark:
Lindstrom OFF, Norgaard ON
81mins: France 1 Denmark 1
Chance for Denmark.
Dolberg squares it, Braithwaite gets in front of Kounde but shoots wide at the near post. Should have got it on target at the very least.
78mins: France 1 Denmark 1
A series of crosses into the box by France. The French are hunting for a second.
74mins: France 1 Denmark 1
Changes for both sides -
Denmark: Damsgaard OFF, Dolberg ON
France: Varane and Dembele OFF, Konate and Coman ON
72mins: France 1 Denmark 1
Big chance for Denmark.
The ball is cut back to Lindstrom, who strikes it firmly but his shot is well saved by Lloris.
70mins: France 1 Denmark 1
All to play for now as we enter the final 20mins. Denmark have finally come alive and France look a bit unsettled.
67mins: France 1 Denmark 1 GOAL
Andersen flicks on a corner by Eriksen and Christensen thumps home a header from close range.
Denmark had lifted their game after conceding but that has come against the run of play.
63mins: France 1 Denmark 0
As it stands, France will be the first team into the last-16.
61mins: France 1 Denmark 0
First sub for France:
Giroud OFF, Thuram ON.
60mins: France 1 Denmark 0 GOAL
France have the goal they deserve.
Mbappe sprints forward, he slips in Hernandez, who gets to the byline and cuts the ball back to Mbappe, who side foots a shot past Schmeichel.
That's his 30th goal for France.
59mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Beautiful take by Griezmann on his chest, he finds space but blazes his shot over the ball.
Had to do better. Will France rue these missed chances?
56mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Brilliant play by Mbappe is spin past Andersen and he is off and running. Giroud inexplicably runs into his path but Mbappe manages to get his shot away which is parried by Schmeichel.
54mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Braithwaite has been more lively than Cornelius and he earns a corner for his side.
But the ball is cleared away by France.
49mins: France 0 Denmark 0
No real improvement in the quality of this match
SECOND HALF: France 0 Denmark 0
We are back under way. One change for Denmark with Cornelius coming off and Braithwaite coming on.
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HALF TIME France 0 Denmark 0
Level at the break. France have enjoyed the majority of the chances but the match needs a spark to really get it going.
45mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Three minutes of time added on.
44mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Eriksen hits a speculative shot well wide. That sums up the half from Denmark.
43mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Kounde is booked after stepping on the ankle of Nelsson, who is down and in need of treatment.
That was not a good tackle.
40mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Mbappe has to score!
Upamecano clips a ball down the right to Dembele, who is free in space. He approaches the box and picks out Mbappe, who is all alone by the penalty spot but he blazes over.
36mins: France 0 Denmark 0
First shot for Denmark. They break away and Cornelius is released through on the angle but he shoots wide.
May have been offside had he scored.
34mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Griezmann bursts through and his shot is saved by Schmeichel. The ball falls to Dembele, who tees up Tchouameni but his shot is also blocked.
France are starting to come alive. Can Denmark hang on?
32mins: France 0 Denmark 0
A third of the way through this match and no shots at goal from Denmark so far.
30mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Explosive speed from Mbappe to beat his man and clip a cross to the far post. Kounde is there and his effort on goal is well blocked.
27mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Not many shots at goal but it has been a highly competitive match so far. The onus is on Denmark to attack given they have just one point.
23mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Yellow card for Cornelius after he steps on the ankle of Giroud.
20mins: France 0 Denmark 0
From the resulting free kick, Griezmann plays it short to Dembele, who whips in a cross and Rabiot's header is well saved by Schmeichel.
19mins: France 0 Denmark 0
What a pass from Griezmann to Mbappe.
He is just about to run clear but Christensen hauls him down. If there wasn't covering defenders, he could have been sent off.
15mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Andersen does enough to deny Giroud a clean header from a Dembele cross.
Giroud slightly flicks out at the Danish defender. Some early beef between them, might be something to keep an eye on.
13mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Maehle clears from just in front of the goal line after Varane flicks on a header at a corner.
France starting to come into the game now.
9mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Both teams look comfortable sitting deep when the other is in possession. Half chance for Giroud but he can't connect with the ball in the Denmark box.
7mins: France 0 Denmark 0
We have our first Mexican wave of the match and we are only seven minutes into the match.
Hopefully that's not a sign of things to come!
4mins: France 0 Denmark 0
Denmark dominating possession in the early stages and looking confident.
2mins: France 0 Denmark 0
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Kick Off: France vs Denmark
We are underway!
Jeremy Wilson at Stadium 974
Big news for France is the return to the starting team of centre-back Raphael Varane. He had been following a very graduated return with Karim Benzema when France arrived in Qatar. Benzema of course tore a quadricep muscle when he tried to step increase his training intensity and France are now down to 24 following the loss of Lucas Hernandez in their win against Australia.
Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante were ruled out even before Didier Deschamps selected his squad, meaning that he can ill afford any set-back for Varane in what will be his first game for more than a month.
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Team news explained
Raphael Varane starts at centre-back for France after fully recovering from a hamstring injury.
Varane will pair up with Dayot Upamecano while Jules Kounde is takes over from Benjamin Pavard on the right side of the defence.
Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot start in midfield with Antoine Griezmann in support of the offensive trio of Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud.
For Denmark, coach Kasper Hjulmand is replaces injured midfielder Thomas Delaney with Mikkel Damsgaard, and Andreas Cornelius gets the nod up front as Kasper Dolberg drops to the bench.
France - Hugo Lloris, Jules Kounde, Raphael Varane, Dayot Upamecano, Theo Hernandez, Adrien Rabiot, Aurelien Tchouameni, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe
Denmark - Kasper Schmeichel, Joachim Andersen, Victor Nelsson, Andreas Christensen, Rasmus Kristensen, Pierre Hojbjerg, Christian Eriksen, Joakim Maehle, Jesper Lindstrom, Andreas Cornelius, Mikkel Damsgaard
How do you stop Mbappe?
In-form Les Bleus
Hello and welcome to coverage of the second match from Group D as France take on Denmark in Doha. The defending champions won their opening match against Australia in style after going a goal down early on.
Their star man Kylian Mbappe dragged them back into the match with two assists and a goal in the 4-1. Denmark were underwhelming in their 0-0 draw with Tunisia, having been regarded as dark horses for the trophy.
The two teams met recently in the Nations League with the Danes beating them home and away this year. And France manager Didier Deschamps says he hopes his side has learned their lessons.
"They are underestimated as a team," Deschamps said. "We are talking about a four-month period where they beat us twice and made life very difficult for us. We will have to make sure that's not the case (this weekend).
"It is not a question of revenge because we know the Danish players and they know us. They can change system from one match to the other and that can give us different types of difficulties."
France captain Hugo Lloris added: "It gives you an idea of the level of this Danish team.
"It's a wake-up for us. We don't need any extra motivation. We are fully aware of the importance. We know it will be a decisive game for qualification. Every team is in a good place physically and athletically. We know it will be a big challenge - and we have to be ready."
Denmark will be without midfielder Thomas Delaney, who will miss the remainder of the competition with a knee injury.
Head coach Kasper Hjulmand says only an improved performance will earn them the victory they need.
"The quality and talent they have in France at the moment is spectacular," he said. "I have great respect for them but we also know how strong we are. We know if we play our very best we know we have a chance of getting a good result against France. To be able to do that we have to take a big step forward from the first match."