PARIS - France kept their hopes of staying in the top tier of the Nations League alive as goals by Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud secured a 2-0 home victory over Austria on Thursday.
Mbappé opened the scoring with a stunning goal before Giroud, who again showed coach Didier Deschamps he is more than a third-choice forward, sealed the world champions' win with a header.
This goal from MbappeKYLIAN MBAPPÉ STRIKES FIRST FOR FRANCE! pic.twitter.com/j8OHtlQylY
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) September 22, 2022
France, who travel to Denmark on Sunday, climbed to third in Group 1 with five points from as many games. Victory came at a price, however, as defender Jules Koundé and goalkeeper Mike Maignan sustained injuries, and may join Karim Benzema, Hugo Lloris and Paul Pogba on the sidelines.
Deschamps was satisfied with the performance in front of an unusually enthusiastic crowd.
"We did what we had to do," the 1998 world champion said. "Our intentions were good, everyone defended a lot, there are a lot of positives. The mindset was good, it was a very good performance."
The hosts, who had lost two and drawn two of their four previous games, came out with all guns blazing at the Stade de France. Mbappé fired a shot into the top corner in the second minute but the effort was disallowed for offside. Aurelien Tchouameni's attempt from just outside the box after a quick combination between Antoine Griezmann and Mbappé was tipped over by Austria keeper Patrick Pentz as Les Bleus piled on the pressure.
Defender Koundé became the latest casualty in an injury-ravaged squad when he limped off the pitch with a muscle problem and Maignan was replaced by Alphonse Areola at halftime due to a calf pain.
Mbappé, denied by Pentz after a one-two with Giroud, tormented the Austrian defense with his pace and created space for his teammates, Jonathan Clauss just missing out on a goal early in the second half. Mbappé broke the deadlock with a cool finish after beating five defenders following a perfect pass from Giroud.
It spurred Austria into action but they lacked accuracy in the box and it was France who scored again. Giroud found the back of the net in the 65th minute from Griezmann's pin-point cross for his 49th international goal, two shy of Thierry Henry's national record.
The AC Milan striker was replaced by Ousmane Dembélé to the Stade de France crowd's standing ovation, leaving Deschamps, who has only called up Giroud in the absence of Benzema, with a tricky decision before November's World Cup.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)