UEFA Euro 2024: Kylian Mbappe injury adds to France’s woes after slow start | Football News - Hindustan Times

UEFA Euro 2024: Kylian Mbappe injury adds to France’s woes after slow start

By, Mumbai
Jun 18, 2024 09:40 PM IST

The 1-0 Group D win over Austria thanks to an own goal saw the tournament favourites look far from assured.

A lightning-fast stepover, a clever drop of the shoulder, a burst of acceleration to get past two defenders, and finally, a goal. That’s how, out of nowhere, France struck the decisive blow against Austria to begin their Euro 2024 campaign on a high. Maximilian Wober headed the ball into his own net, but the deadlock was broken thanks to a moment of genius by Kylian Mbappe.

France's forward #10 Kylian Mbappe receives medical treatment (AFP)
France's forward #10 Kylian Mbappe receives medical treatment (AFP)

Overall, though, the game would have set off alarm bells for the Les Bleus. The world No.2 side managed only 48% possession as the ‘gegenpressing’ by a team ranked 22 spots below them – it is coach Ralf Rangnick’s favourite tactic – stretched them. France came in as tournament favourites, but unlike Spain or hosts Germany, weren’t too convincing in their opening game.

There were a number of lapses from France throughout the contest. They would have conceded two minutes before the match-winning first half goal but for goalkeeper Mike Maignan denying Christoph Baumgartner from a one-on-one situation. Mbappe was guilty of squandering a huge opportunity to double the lead in the second half after being sent clear on goal.

France’s big setback though came towards the end after Mbappe banged his face into Austria defender Kevin Danso’s shoulder trying a header. It left the talismanic striker bleeding profusely due to a broken nose. He was subbed off. The French Football Federation has said he won’t need immediate surgery, but it remains to be seen if he will be fit for Friday’s key clash with Netherlands.

“We need to check it out but it seems quite complicated, which is really very unfortunate for us. He didn't get off lightly,” France head coach Didier Deschamps said after the game. “I’m not going to go into hypothesis but the French team with Kylian will always be stronger. If the news doesn’t go along these lines then we will have to fight without him.”

It will, indeed, be a test of character for France if they are to face the Dutch, who beat Poland in their opening Group D game, without Mbappe. The 25-year-old, Real Madrid's latest Galactico, is undoubtedly the driving force in the squad. Although he’s yet to score in this Euro, his 12 World Cup goals took France to the title in 2018 and the final in 2022.

Against Austria, seasoned midfielder N’Golo Kante was the standout player and remained a shield in front of the backline. It is on the attacking front where France will need to find more inspiration. Antoine Griezmann can always be counted on for his all-round brilliance as a No.10 but if Mbappe is unavailable, he’ll need to do more in the box. As will be the challenge for seasoned striker Olivier Giroud, who replaced Mbappe in the 90th minute and miskicked an easy chance, but may now get a start.

Ousmane Dembele impressed with his speed on the right despite not posing any serious threat, while Marcus Thuram disappointed on the left wing. Deschamps might be tempted to mix things up and start Eduardo Camavinga, who played a key role in Real Madrid’s Champions League triumph, to allow Adrien Rabiot to move forward more often. Kingsley Coman, if fit, will be another strong attacking option.

Going by their performance against Austria, it’s quite evident that France must be more cohesive with the ball. Having reached the final of three of the last four major competitions, they have been the most consistent side in the world over the last eight years. They have the firepower to claim a third European Championship, but will know they need to find another gear quickly.

“There was some apprehension, but it was nice to start together and get those feelings back,” said Kante, after winning the Player-of-the-Match award. “We’re human. We fight together for the result and we’ll keep doing that.”

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