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.
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.