France reaches World Cup quarterfinals with 3-1 victory over Poland as Kylian Mbappé breaks Pelé’s record

Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his second goal against Poland.
CNN  — 

France was made to work hard for its place in the World Cup quarterfinals, overcoming an improved Poland side 3-1 thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappé.

Giroud broke the deadlock just before halftime, collecting a through pass from Mbappé and putting the ball brilliantly into the far corner. It’s that kind of clinical finishing that has now earned Giroud 52 goals for France, surpassing the previous record held by Thierry Henry.

Poland struggled in its three group matches, playing a conservative style of football, but a more attacking team on Sunday caused France problems throughout this match and Les Bleus had captain Hugo Lloris to thank for maintaining its clean sheet with a brilliant first-half save from Robert Lewandowski.

However, with the game very much in the balance, Mbappé showed why he is considered one of the best players in the world, finishing brilliantly into the near post from inside the penalty area to break Polish hearts.

Giroud celebrates becoming France's all-time top scorer.

If people thought Mbappé couldn’t top that effort, they would have been wrong. His second – and France’s third – was a thing of beauty, turning and curling a stunning strike into the top corner.

That is Mbappé’s fifth goal of Qatar 2022 and already his ninth World Cup goal overall, breaking Pelé’s record of seven World Cup goals scored before the age of 24.

Lewandowski did get a consolation goal for Poland with the last kick of the game, converting a penalty after he missed his first effort but was given a second chance as Lloris came off his line.

World Cup favorites?

After making seven changes to the team for France’s defeat against Tunisia, manager Didier Deschamps reverted back to the team that beat Denmark in its second match of this World Cup.

France is looking to become just the third team in history to win back-to-back World Cups and looked like one of the most dangerous teams in Qatar after its opening two games.

The team managed to win just one of its six UEFA Nations League games earlier this year, finishing below Croatia and Denmark, but – to the relief of Deschamps – has rekindled the type of form that helped it lift the trophy in Russia four years ago.

The team’s improvement is even more impressive given Deschamps is without a number of key players at this World Cup.

Already missing the midfield duo of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté, who both started in the final four years ago, France was then rocked by the news that defender Presnel Kimpembe, forward Christopher Nkunku and Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema would also miss the tournament through injury.

Then came the news that defender Lucas Hernández had suffered a knee injury in the opening game and would also be out for the rest of the World Cup.

But when you have Mbappé on the pitch, the team will always have a chance. Known for his eye for goal, the 23-year-old turned provider for the opener, threading a ball into strike partner Giroud, who took one touch and struck the ball into the ground, causing it to bobble over Wojciech Szczęsny’s hand and into the far corner.

France's Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring the opening goal.