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Kylian Mbappe scored a stunning opening goal as France overcame injuries to several key players and a series of off-field problems to seal a 2-0 win over Austria in the UEFA Nations League in Paris on Thursday.
Mbappe showed his amazing pace and strength to put the reigning world champions ahead in the 56th minute at the Stade de France.
The recalled Olivier Giroud doubled their lead nine minutes later as France ran out worthy winners and staved off the threat of relegation from the top flight of the Nations League, a competition they won last year.
“We did what we had to do to get the win, created a lot of chances and controlled the match,” coach Didier Deschamps said.
“There are a lot of positives to take from the game.”
Deschamps’ side must avoid winning their last Group A1 game in Denmark on Sunday, while qualification for next June’s four-team final is already out of reach.
That’s because France failed to win any of their four games in June, but the World Cup is now the priority for Les Bleus, with the first leg of their title defense in Qatar exactly two months away.
Deschamps will hope to have recovered at least most of his stars by the time the match against Australia comes up on November 22.
The omissions from this game would make for a very strong squad in their own right, with the absences including goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris; centre-backs Lucas Hernandez and Presnel Kimbembe; left back Theo Hernandez; Midfield lynchpin N’Golo Kante and forward Kingsley Coman.
Karim Benzema is also currently out, and then Paul Pogba faces a race against time to recover from knee surgery.
Pogba has hit the headlines after complaining to Italian prosecutors that he was the target of a 13 million euro ($13 million) blackmail plot.
His brother Mathias is one of the five accused and detained in the case.
Giroud completed the goalscoring record
Meanwhile, this week Paris Saint-Germain superstar Mbappe refused to take part in a photo shoot in a row with the French Football Federation over image rights.
But neither Mbappe nor his teammates were as distracted as they outplayed Austria.
Mbappe had the ball in the net within 90 seconds, only to be denied by an offside flag, and he continued to be a threat in the first half.
France should have taken the lead at the interval, but Austria goalkeeper Patrick Bentz had to thank for a sensational double save in the 35th minute.
Pentz headed Aurelien Tchouameni’s acrobatic overhead kick over the bar, then got down to save Antoine Griezmann’s follow-up effort.
The hosts – who had earlier introduced Monaco centre-back Benoit Badiasile and his club colleague, midfielder Youssef Fobana – had injury concerns compounded when Barcelona’s Jules Conte pulled out.
Goalkeeper Mike Mignon also went off at half-time and was replaced by West Ham United’s Alphonse Areola, but France soon went ahead.
Mbappe collected a Giroud pass on the left, rose inside, chased down Austria’s Marcel Sabitzer and fired a shot beyond Benz.
He celebrated by impersonating a photographer, an apparent intervention into the tussle over image rights.
Giroud then headed home Griezmann’s cross to make it 2-0 with his 49th international goal.
He is now one shy of Thierry Henry’s French record of 51.
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