Mbappé and France Make a Statement in Extending Their Title Defense

In order to repeat as champions, though, France will need more of what Mbappé did on Sunday. As Poland began tiring chasing him around in the second half, Mbappé 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 World Cup, passing Pelé for most in the tournament before the age of 24. Mbappé didn’t stop there; he added a third French goal in the first minute of stoppage time, his World Cup-leading fifth. It put him in prime position for the tournament’s awards for the best player and the highest scorer.

“I came here to win the World Cup, not the Golden Ball or the Golden Boot,” he said.

Sunday brought the sort of result that was expected from France. Even with a slew of injuries to key players — such as the world player of the year Karim Benzema, defender Lucas Hernandez and midfielders N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba — France remained one of the title favorites. It had little trouble in the group stage, losing its final game to Tunisia after it had already earned a spot in the knockout stage and rested many starters.

Poland, on the other hand, barely survived the group stage to reach the knockout round for the first time since 1986. While it had been criticized for being too defensive and conservative despite possessing the star striker Robert Lewandowski, Poland surprised France in a hard- fought first half with a more aggressive attack.

With France stumbling defensively at times, the teams traded moments of pressure and missed opportunities until Giroud broke through near the end of the first half. He received a pass at the edge of the penalty area from Mbappé, who drew Poland’s attention, and then fired a left-footed shot across his body past the Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Then in the second half, France broke away as Mbappé took over the game. In the 74th minute, he and forward Ousmane Dembélé raced down the field after a Polish turnover, with Dembélé feeding a long cross to Mbappé. Unmarked on the left side of the penalty box, Mbappé paused, collected himself and drilled a shot into the net for a 2-0 lead.

“No coach knows a recipe to stop Mbappé in the form he’s in right now,” Coach Czeslaw Michniewicz of Poland said through an interpreter. After mentioning other stars such as Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski, Michniewicz said Mbappé will be “the one to take over” the sport.

Even with a comfortable lead, Mbappé kept attacking. Soon after stoppage time began, he curled a shot from the edge of the penalty area into the top right corner for his second goal of the game and then celebrated.

Written by trendingatoz

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