PARIS, (Reuters) – France kept their hopes of staying in the top tier of the Nations League alive as goals by Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud secured a 2-0 home victory over Austria on Thursday.
Mbappe produced a stunning strike before the 35-year-old Giroud sealed the win with a header to become the oldest player to score a goal for France.
The world champions, 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 Kounde and goalkeeper Mike Maignan sustained injuries, and may join Karim Benzema, Hugo Lloris and Paul Pogba on the sidelines.
France coach Didier 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.
Mbappe 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 Mbappe was tipped over by Austria keeper Patrick Pentz as Les Bleus piled on the pressure. Defender Kounde joined a long French injury list when he limped off the pitch with a muscle problem and Maignan was replaced by Alphonse Areola at halftime due to a calf issue.
Mbappe tormented the Austrian defence with his pace and created space for his team mates, Jonathan Clauss just missing out on a goal early in the second half.
Mbappe 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.
Giroud was 70 days older than Roger Marche when he scored for France against Spain in 1959.
“Oliver deserves it, I am very happy for him. He had difficult periods with his club but always performed well with us. If I call him, it’s so he can score goals. And he had many opportunities,” Deschamps told L’Equipe.
The AC Milan striker was replaced by Ousmane Dembele 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.