France beat Denmark 2-1 in a Group D match of the World Cup at the Stadium 974 in Doha on Saturday. The French thus became the first team to qualify for the round of 16 in this edition of the tournament.
Kylian Mbappe scored a brace for France in the 61st and 86th minute, respectively, while Andreas Christensen scored Denmark’s only goal in the 68th minute. The 23-year-old Mbappe has now scored 14 goals in his last 12 international appearances for his country.
We now take a look at three things that stood out in the match:
France looked dangerous with their aerial balls in the first half
Denmark started the game by having more ball possession and started playing with a high defensive line in their 3-4-3 formation. Their three central defenders kept playing passes forward, but there were not enough incisive balls to test the French defense.
France, meanwhile, had a slow start to the game and defended deep with their 4-1-2-3 formation for the initial 10-15 minutes. However, as the first half progressed, Les Bleus began to assert their presence by playing crosses into the Denmark penalty box, especially from the right flank through Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele.
Dembele played quite a few good crosses into the box, one of which was met well by Adrien Rabiot, but was creditably saved by Denmark’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. France also came close with a delivery by Antoine Griezmann from a free-kick.
Mbappe also played a few crosses and a headed pass into the box, as he was not allowed much space to make his darting runs from the flank. Left-back Theo Hernandez also played a quality cross from the left flank that was dealt with by the Danish defense.
France looked the more incisive team, with Denmark struggling to register efforts on goal
France started playing with a high defensive line and increased numbers inside the opposition half as the first half progressed. Denmark, however, could not do much to trouble Hugo Lloris in the French goal.
The Danish defenders tried playing a few long balls to their left wing-back Joakim Maehle, but the French right-back Jules Kounde did not offer the former much space.
Griezmann, playing in a deeper role than usual, played a delectable through pass to an onrushing Mbappe, but the latter was stopped by a Danish defender by a tactical foul that seemed to be crucial in averting the danger.
Mbappe then cut in from the left flank before letting fly a right-footed shot that was unintentionally blocked by Olivier Giroud inside the Danish penalty box.
There was a Danish counter-attack of note, too, as Andreas Cornelius’ shot from it missed the target by some margin. Still, it was the only decent effort that the Danes could have in the first half and the French looked the side with more purpose at the end of the first half.
Mbappe magic won it for France in the second half
Denmark attacked through the right flank more often in the second half as Rasmus Kristensen tried to make use the space left behind by Theo Hernandez, who kept making overlapping runs.
Still, it was the AC Milan left-back’s surging run from the counter that led to France’s opening goal as the former played a one-two with Mbappe before the latter slotted the ball past Schmeichel.
Denmark responded well and earned a corner through the right flank. Joachim Andersen headed the ball down to Christensen who made no mistake in heading in from point-blank range. It was incidentally Denmark’s first attempt on goal in the match.
Didier Deschamps responded by replacing Dembele with Kingsley Coman, which proved to be a pivotal change. Coman proved to be a livewire down the right flank throughout his stay on the pitch and also played his part in France’s winning goal.
A ball was played to Coman from near the half-line and the latter played it to Griezmann, whose perfect cross found Mbappe inside the Danish box as the latter made not mistake in connecting with his chest and beating Schmeichel. Minutes earlier, Rabiot had tried an ambitious bicycle kick from yet another cross by Griezmann, but the ball had sailed over the bar.
However, Schmeichel should probably have done better to prevent France’s second goal as the ball was met by Mbappe inside the six-yard box and hence, the Danish goalkeeper should have been able to parry it.
The second French goal all but sealed the fate of the match and although Martin Braithwaite came close from a Mikel Damsgaard cross from the left, it was not enough to restore parity.
During the last 15 minutes of the match, Rabiot gave cover to Theo Hernandez by switching to the left side of defense repeatedly. Rabiot had a good match by contributing well both defensively and offensively.