Dec 4, 2022, 12:07 pm ET
Dec 4, 2022, 12:07 pm ETCredit…Franck Fife/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
DOHA, Qatar — In the nearly 100 years of the World Cup, only two countries have won titles back to back. Italy did it in 1934 and 1938, before the tournament was a truly global affair. And Brazil, powered by a young Pelé, accomplished the feat in 1958 and 1962.
With a 3-1 win at Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday, France kept alive its hopes alive of becoming the third country to retain its crown. France wasn’t particularly sharp to start, but a goal by Olivier Giroud and two from Kylian Mbappé showed off the talent and depth that dispatched a plucky Polish team, clinched a place in the quarterfinals, and suggested France might not stop there.
France will face the winner of England vs. Senegal in its next game, who were slated to play later on Sunday. The road will only get tougher from here: Spain or Portugal are the likely opponents after that, and Argentina, the Netherlands and (potentially) Brazil and Croatia lurk on the other side of the bracket.
The victory brought milestones for two of France’s best players. With his goal in the 44th minute, the 52nd of his national team career, Giroud passed Thierry Henry as the leading scorer in France’s history. As Poland began tiring in the second half, Mbappé, 23, blazed a shot into the left corner for a 2-0 France lead in the 74th minute. It was his eighth career goal in the tournament before the age of 24, passing Pelé. Mbappe didn’t stop there, though; he added a third French goal in the first minute of stoppage time, his World Cup leading fifth goal.
Poland’s Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty kick for Poland on the final kick of the match, but it was a mere consolation prize. France was well through by then, and already looking forward.
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