France defeated Poland 3-1 with ease to go to the World Cup quarterfinals.
With his goal in the 44th minute, Olivier Giroud became the all-time leading scorer for France. Kylian Mbappe then materialized. The erratic Frenchman made it 3-0 for France with two spectacular strikes.
Given that he will be 39 in 2026, Robert Lewandowski’s third-effort penalty goal to make it 3-1 will probably be his final World Cup performance.
How far will the France squad advance?
On the field, things have gone more smoothly than they may have considering the issues, injuries, and withdrawals that France had to deal with in the lead-up to this World Cup. Didier Deschamps has effectively had to assemble a new team on the spot due to the numerous high-profile absences. The fact that they have bonded so well thus far is a testament to him and his people.
However, is the combination strong enough to succeed in the end? Well, it seems like anything might happen with Kylian Mbappe unleashing a tornado-like path of destruction in his wake. However, it is important for his staff to work well together.
For this tournament, France has a set starting lineup. This same choice will be trusted with the upcoming tasks, barring any questions about their fitness.
Giroud as number one
As far as late bloomers go, Giroud’s success has been worth the wait as well as the effort, tenacity, and will he has required along the road. Being the leading scorer in a country with the history of French football is an incredible accomplishment, all the more so for a person who might not have succeeded at all.
He bounced the ball into the corner past his former Arsenal teammate Wojciech Szczesny while mastering his timing to ease onto Mpabbe’s pass.
The many strategies France used in the final third
France is distinguishing itself at this tournament with a variety of final third solutions. The many attacker profiles offer several alternatives, and credit to this team for switching things up.
Raphael Varane came near from a corner early on here, continuing France’s trend of being a significant threat from set pieces during the group stages. Mbappe’s shot around the 34th minute after dribbling past Matty Cash is an excellent example of why you should not leave him alone.
Out wide, the threat of Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele in one-vs-one scenarios continually causes the opponents to double up against them.
Additionally, the broad pair’s lightning-fast speed poses a threat during transitions. Mbappe and Dembele had numerous chances to score on the break as France drew closer in the second half, but they did not combine to make it 2-0 until the 74th minute.
World Cup margins of error
It appeared for much of the first half of the game that the Al Thumama Stadium’s nets had been covertly treated with ‘Al Rihla’-specific repellant. By halftime, France had put five of nine shots on goal while Poland had only put two of their eight efforts on goal, providing compelling numbers for a full 90 minutes of knockout play.
However, Poland had a rare opportunity to seize control of a match that France had completely dominated in the 38th minute. Unmarked Jakub Kaminski connected with a low cross in the middle of the box, but his shot went straight for Hugo Lloris’ heart. A defender stopped the 20-year-old Wolfsburg winger’s second attempt, which fell to Piotr Zielinski, whose shot just eluded a writhing Lloris but ultimately was cleared off the line.
Six minutes later, as fate would have it, Pulisic and the Polish were forced to regret their opportunities as their opposite numbers simultaneously opened the scoring. It serves as a brutal reminder of how small the margins for error are during a World Cup.
Matty Cash vs. Kylian Mbappe
Cash was unfortunate to have to face off against a player who was capable of terrorizing even the best defenders in the world on this particular occasion. The screen flashed up Kylian Mbappe’s peak speed as 35 kph at one point when he engaged the afterburners. Mbappe is quick; cash is quick. So perhaps it was inevitable that Poland’s No. 2 would occasionally appear frail.
Mbappe overtook him twice in the opening frame. Other times, Cash was competitive. But he had taken a chance by moving forward just before France’s second goal, and looking back, that was a mistake because it left a player with Mbappe’s unique talents in such a large amount of space.