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Monday July 15, 2024

France wait for Mbappe to return and the goals to flow

By AFP
June 25, 2024
Kylian Mbappe sports a mask in training on Sunday. — AFP/file
Kylian Mbappe sports a mask in training on Sunday. — AFP/file 

DORTMUND: France appear almost certain to reach the last 16 at Euro 2024 but they are hoping to have Kylian Mbappe back, and rediscover their goal-scoring touch, when they face Poland in their final group game on Tuesday.

One of the leading favourites coming into the tournament, France have four points from two matches in Group D but have 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 their opening match in Duesseldorf, before they 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 defence 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.”

That defensive solidity is important and could take them a long way, even if the goals do not flow at the other end. The centre-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. “The most important thing is that we are creating chances, so we just need to start putting some of them away.”