France waits for Mbappe to return and the goals to flow at Euro 2024

Agence France-Presse
France waits for Mbappe to return and the goals to flow at Euro 2024
France's forward Kylian Mbappe wears as protective mask flanked by France's defender Jules Kounde during a training session at the Home Deluxe Arena Stadium in Paderborn, western Germany, on June 23, 2024, during of the UEFA Euro 2024 football championship.
Franck Fife / AFP

DORTMUND, Germany – France appears almost certain to reach the last 16 at Euro 2024, but it is hoping to have Kylian Mbappe back, and rediscover its goal-scoring touch, when it faces Poland in their final group game on Tuesday.

One of the leading favorites coming into the tournament, France has four points from two matches in Group D but has only scored one goal, and that was courtesy of Austrian defender Maxmimilian Woeber putting through his own net.

That gave France a 1-0 win against Austria in its opening match in Duesseldorf, before it drew 0-0 with the Netherlands in Leipzig on Friday in the absence of Mbappe.

The new Real Madrid signing played no part against the Dutch as he recovers from the broken nose he suffered in a collision late on against Austria.

He will need to wear a protective mask over his nose when he returns to action but he trained on Sunday at the French team's base in Paderborn and his teammates are optimistic of having their captain back against the Poles.

"I think everyone knows he is really eager to play in the next match. That won't surprise anyone," said midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni.

"As for the mask, I think he is starting to get used to it. Of course he would rather not wear it but I think if you ask the doctor he would say there is no choice.

"But that won't change anything for him. We know that when he is on the field he will bring a lot to the team."

It was Mbappe whose cross was headed in by Woeber for France's only goal so far at the Euros and he is by a long way the biggest attacking threat available to coach Didier Deschamps.

Marcus Thuram led the line against the Dutch, but he has scored only twice in 22 appearances for his country.

Antoine Griezmann has only netted twice in his last 30 caps, while Ousmane Dembele's only goal for France in the last three years came against Gibraltar.

Kingsley Coman is still building up his fitness after missing the end of the season with Bayern Munich due to injury, and Randal Kolo Muani is coming off a difficult campaign in Mbappe's shadow at Paris Saint-Germain.

"It is frustrating but nothing to be alarmed about," Griezmann said after the Netherlands game in reference to his own missed chances.

"The defense and midfield are doing a remarkable job, we are leaving very little to the opposition, but we must improve in attack and be more deadly."

Almost through
That defensive solidity is important and could take them a long way, even if the goals do not flow at the other end.

The center-back pairing of Dayot Upamecano and William Saliba have impressed in front of goalkeeper Mike Maignan, while N'Golo Kante has been outstanding in midfield on his return to the international stage after two years out of the picture.

"It is important to underline how solid we have been defensively because I think that is vital when you are trying to win titles," insisted Tchouameni.

"Obviously we will need to score goals if we are to win matches. That will make things a little easier, but we are not having doubts about that.

"The most important thing is that we are creating chances, so we just need to start putting some of them away."

France just needs a draw to be certain of reaching the last 16 against a Poland team that has already been eliminated after two defeats in their first two outings.

Even a defeat will not stop the French going through, as long as Austria does not beat the Dutch.

However, the 2022 World Cup runners-up need to better the Netherlands' result against Austria — or at least win by a wider margin — in order to take top spot.

Wherever they finish in the group may not change too much in terms of their potential last-16 opponents, but it could have an impact further down the line in terms of possible ties in the quarterfinals and beyond.

Poland's veteran striker Robert Lewandowski, now 35, will hope to start after returning from injury as a substitute against Austria.

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