Mbappe and Giroud’s brilliance helps France into the World Cup quarter-finals

Mbappe and Giroud’s brilliance helps France into the World Cup quarter-finals

On Olivier Giroud’s big night, the French striker was upset by his team’s regular upstart.

After Giroud set his own record, becoming the country’s all-time leading goalscorer, Kylian Mbappe began to create even more history of his own.

He became the youngest player to climb to eight World Cup goals – he soon moved to nine – and helped France into the last eight of this global final. At the age of 23, Mbappe consigned Eusebio’s feat to the past. Such is the company he keeps.

The electric Paris Saint-Germain striker was to have another on Sunday night, the second as impressive as the first, as France won 3-1 at the Al Janoub Stadium to move into the quarter-finals. The reigning champions, seemingly plagued by injuries to too many prominent performers, have continued to weaken. Poland, competing with a World Cup knockout for the first time in 36 years, simply did not have enough.

In a reversal of the usual dynamic, Mbappe would probably like to share the spotlight with Giroud. The AC Milan striker opened the scoring in the last 16 tie, latching on to a Mbappe pass just before half-time to finish expertly past Wojciech Szczesny. It represented his 52nd in French colours, taking him one past Thierry Henry, a move now unparalleled.

Giroud didn’t even look up from the moment Mbappe’s pass arrived; it was a predatory goal, which underlines why he now stands alone at the top of the country’s scoring charts. Henry needed 123 appearances to plunder his 51 goals. Giroud has one more in six fewer games.

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Famously, or infamously, Giroud became a World Cup winner four years ago without having an attempt on goal. He played 546 minutes in Russia. But here he was in Doha, another swipe at his doubters. He has more goals than his compatriots: Henry, Karim Benzema, Zinedine Zidane, Just Fontaine, Michel Platini, to name a few.

Sometimes mocked, often underrated, Giroud is the front man who loves to play second fiddle, the perfect partner in a way to Mbappe’s magnetism. Their attachment is an obvious weapon. It should be if France is to keep the crown.

After combining for the team’s first, the pair were involved in the second. Just before the hour, France swept forward and Giroud passed for the onrushing Ousmane Dembele to release Mbappe. Mbappe steadied himself, assessed his options and unleashed a powerful drive high over Szczesny.

Four goals, then, to go with his four last time out. Before the end, he increased that number to five. Like the first, Mbappe found space in the Polish penalty area, sized up the situation and sent a shot high into the net. That left Szczesny, his side’s standout this World Cup, without a chance.

Poland’s chances were gone. To be fair, they had given as good as they got before Giroud broke through – Piotr Zielinski should really have scored in the 38th minute and Raphael Varane hacked home the rebound from the line – and they will at least have Robert Lewandowski’s injury-time penalty to point to as a consolation. It doesn’t matter that the Barcelona star needed another move after putting the first effort into Hugo Lloris’ grip. However, the France captain had jumped from his line a little too early. With another shot, Lewandowski rolled home from the spot.

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His team will now presumably return home on the next flight. France, the holders, advance. With Mbappe in this form, and Giroud content in his supporting role, the champions can take a break.

Updated: December 4, 2022, 5:52 p.m

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