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France 2-0 Austria: Mbappe and Giroud drag Les Bleus away from relegation
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Kylian Mbappe scored as France overcame Austria in the Nations League
Kylian Mbappe scored as France overcame Austria in the Nations League

Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud were on target as France picked up their first Nations League victory of the campaign with a 2-0 victory over Austria on Thursday.

Les Bleus faced serious injury difficulties heading into the international break, with Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante among the absentees, and often lacked fluidity at the Stade de France.

But Mbappe stepped up after 56 minutes to drive past numerous defenders and finish past Patrick Pentz before Giroud headed in to help Didier Deschamps' side to victory.

The winners of the last edition, France will now have their Nations League relegation fate in their hands, but cannot progress through Group A1 after leaders Croatia downed Denmark.

Mbappe thought he had curled France into a second-minute lead, only for the offside flag to deny him, before Jonathan Clauss forced Pentz to push over from range.

Jules Kounde was withdrawn as Les Bleus' injury woes continued before Benoit Badiashile's acrobatic effort was tipped onto the crossbar by Pentz, who denied Antoine Griezmann's close-range follow-up.

A smart passing move between Mbappe and Griezmann resulted in Clauss curling narrowly over after the interval, but France were soon ahead.

Mbappe received the ball from a driving Giroud run before powering forward into the area and firing a right-footed effort past the reach of Pentz.

Griezmann provided the second goal as his cross from the right wing found Giroud, who flicked a header into the top-left corner to secure the victory for France.

What does it mean? Les Bleus in control but far from convincing

France were at their imperious best as they marched to World Cup glory in Russia in 2018, but have underwhelmed in the build-up to the next edition four years later.

Les Bleus had failed to win any of their four outings in the Nations League, but battled through injuries to escape the danger of relegation.

While their recent struggles will offer encouragement to the likes of Argentina, Germany and Brazil at the World Cup, France will hope to have numerous returning stars for Qatar.

Clauss' presents

Clauss was offered the chance in Deschamps' side after injuries to the likes of Pogba, Kante and Adrien Rabiot and seized his chance against Austria.

Mbappe may steal the headlines but Marseille wing-back Clauss created a game-high three chances – level with the Paris Saint-Germain star – in an effective showing on the right-hand side.

Kounde worries

As Deschamps faced numerous injury concerns, matters worsened after recent Barcelona arrival Kounde limped off in the first half.

Kounde was partnering Raphael Varane, a likely combination for the World Cup, and both Barca and France will hope the defender's removal does not offer too much cause for concern in the upcoming weeks.

What's next?

France visit Denmark in their final Nations League fixture on Sunday before November's World Cup, while host Croatia on the same day.


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