Olivier Giroud proved a popular Nations League hero for World Cup winners France on their competitive return to Paris against Netherlands.
Kylian Mbappe illuminated France’s World Cup homecoming and Olivier Giroud ended his international goal drought to seal a 2-1 Nations league win over Netherlands
PSG teenager Mbappe was one of the stars of Les Bleus’ march to glory in Russia and he dazzled during the opening stages of a first game back at the Stade de France for Didier Deschamps’ side.
There was a sense of inevitability to his 14th-minute opener but Ronald Koeman’s men were rewarded for their persistence with Ryan Babel’s equaliser after the hour mark.
Chelsea striker Giroud failed to score at Russia 2018 but was on hand to volley home substitute Benjamin Mendy’s cross for his first France goal in 11 matches.
To their credit, Netherlands hung in there as the world champions were sometimes guilty of overplaying, but they offered little as an attacking force.
Mbappe drew two early saves from Jasper Cillessen before becoming the beneficiary of some dreadful Netherlands defending.
A couple of botched clearances from Babel and Daley Blind were compounded when Quincy Promes headed into Blaise Matuidi’s path, leaving Mbappe to tap in the Juventus midfielder’s low cross.
— UEFA Nations League (@UEFAEURO) September 9, 2018
By the time the hour passed, France had allowed a position of strength to drift and did not heed the warning of Georginio Wijnaldum bustling into the box to drag wastefully wide.
Kenny Tete charged into space down the right, beyond the recently introduced Mendy, and the on-rushing Babel dispatched his fine delivery at the near post.
Memphis Depay then lashed into the side netting, with the Lyon star wasting another promising position in the 71st minute.
France’s response was decisive, although the previously impressive Cillessen will be disappointed to have palmed Giroud’s left-footed effort into the net.
What it means: World champions set the pace
Following France’s opening 0-0 draw with Germany in Munich on Thursday, they are out in front in Group A1 of UEFA’s inaugural in-season competition, while Netherlands must try to get off the mark next month.
Pat on the back: Persistence rewarded for Giroud
France’s centre-forward repeatedly comparing himself to the famously non-scoring Stephane Guivarc’h while in Russia felt like unnecessary self-deprecation for a man who consistently proves his worth to Deschamps’ collective. Giroud has not always been flavour of the month with France supporters but his goal – his 32nd for his country – was rapturously received and deservedly so.
32 – Olivier Giroud has scored his 32th goal for France, overtaking Zinedine Zidane (31) and becoming the only 4th best goalscorer in France national team’s history. Deliverance. #FRANED pic.twitter.com/QQzyBj5HtB
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) September 9, 2018
Boot up the backside: Mendy must do more
There is a clamour for Mendy to usurp the more prosaic Lucas Hernandez as France’s first-choice left-back. The Manchester City man’s attacking prowess was there for all to see as he set up Giroud’s winner, but he must tighten up defensively fully convince Deschamps. Mendy was a spectator to the equaliser and Netherlands regularly found joy in his area of the field during the middle of the second half.
Deschamps’ men host Iceland in an October friendly before welcoming Germany to the French capital. Joachim Low’s men must travel to Amsterdam ahead of that assignment.