KYLIAN Mbappe set up a history-making goal for Olivier Giroud and then scored two himself as holders France eased into the quarter-finals of the World Cup with a 3-1 win over Poland yesterday.
Giroud’s opening goal a minute before half-time was his 52nd for his country, allowing him to pass Thierry Henry and become France’s all-time record marksman.
Mbappe’s lethal strike in the 74th minute killed off any prospect of a Poland comeback and he netted again at the death to move to nine goals in just 11 World Cup appearances, the second-most for a French player at the tournament.
At the other end the threat of Robert Lewandowski was snuffed out by the French defence although the 34-year-old Poland captain did get the consolation of scoring a stoppage-time penalty.
France, though, march on to the quarter-finals and remain on course to become the first team to successfully defend the World Cup since Brazil 60 years ago.
France were overwhelming favourites against a Poland side who had limped through the group stage, but the memory of their exit from Euro 2020 served as a warning.
France had been 3-1 up and cruising in that last-16 tie against Switzerland only to concede two late goals and end up losing on penalties, with Mbappe missing the crucial spot-kick.
Mbappe returned on Sunday as one of nine changes following their inconsequential defeat by Tunisia, with goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris also returning to win his 142nd cap.
That saw him equal the record for most France appearances held by Lilian Thuram, whose son Marcus came off the bench here.
It was a history-making occasion for France but what coach Didier Deschamps wanted above all was a routine victory and progression to the quarter-finals.
The sky should be the limit for a French side led by Mbappe, but it is not just him.
Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann were lively in a strong start amid a hushed atmosphere at Al Thumama Stadium.
The fans were happy to sit back and be thrilled as the big screen at one point showed that Mbappe had reached a top speed of 35 kilometres per hour.
France’s pace and pressing was too much for Poland as Przemyslaw Frankowski gave possession away, leading to Dembele crossing to the back post for Giroud to somehow put the ball wide.
Poland, who have not won a World Cup knockout match since 1982, recovered from a tentative start to almost go ahead in the 38th minute as Lloris blocked a shot by Piotr Zielinski and Jakub Kaminski’s follow-up was stopped on the line by Raphael Varane.
Those misses proved crucial as France seized the lead a minute before half-time.
Patient build-up play ended with Mbappe having a glance as he received the ball just outside the box before playing in Giroud who took a touch and finished into the far corner.
Poland were left to chase the game in the second half and they sent on Juventus striker Arkadiusz Milik to support Lewandowski for the final half hour.
However, their attack was simply no match for France, who picked off Poland to make it 2-0. A Griezmann clearance was brought down by Giroud and he released Dembele whose ball into the middle was controlled before being blasted home by Mbappe.
It was an emphatic finish and was followed by another of a similar calibre from a Thuram assist in stoppage time.
Only Just Fontaine, who scored 13 in 1958, has scored more World Cup goals for France.
Lewandowski then pulled one back right at the end, converting a retaken penalty that was awarded for a handball by Dayot Upamecano. — AFP