It’s 52! A beaming Olivier Giroud flashed the magic number with his fingers – a five and a two. Or was it ‘V’ for victory that France achieved as the most underrated French striker scored one and then Kylian Mbappe added two more in this 3-1 victory over Poland?
After a game of chess where the pieces on the board moved back and forth, it was a simple move that undid the Poles. Dayot Upamecano found Kylian Mbappe in his usual left channel and the Parisian star threaded it perfectly to Giroud’s path and his shot crossed Wojciech Szczesny in a flash.
Giroud was now France’s highest scorer; Thierry Henry had been left behind.
Jakub Kaminski could have equalised immediately, but his drive took a deflection and rattled only the side netting. Poland defied predictions and was not here to just make the numbers. It attacked with vim and had eight attempts on goal in the first 45 minutes as France, often, hung by a thread. Poland had a medley of chances in the 38th minute and it was only a miracle that France didn’t concede. First a cutback fell for Piotr Zielinski, who smashed it straight at Hugo Lloris, and then the follow-up too was blocked by Raphael Varane.
Giroud had earlier missed a sitter as he failed to rush inside in time to correctly make contact with a low cross from Ousmane Dembele. Another attempt of his went inside in the 57th minute, but Giroud’s overhead acrobatic kick was ruled out as Szczesny had gone to ground while punching away the earlier highball.
Mbappe sneaked ahead in the race for the Golden Boot with two goals that took his tally in this Cup to five.
Mbappe’s first strike in the 74th minute left Poland wounded, and France escaped from the almost-covered Al Thumama fortress and moved into the quarterfinals. A handball by Upamecano in the dying seconds gave Robert Lewandowski the chance to score a second World Cup goal. His first effort from a stuttering run was gobbled up easily by Lloris. But the Polish captain took it again as his French counterpart had moved out of his line a fraction early. The stutter this time threw Lloris the other way and Lewandowski had his consolation.
The French luck here was much better than that of a solitary sparrow that flew helter-skelter for more than half the game, trying to find a way through the blinding lights and the overlapping arches. The sparrow finally did sneak out, as did France, with its stars finding a way.
Get all the results for the FIFA World Cup 2022 here: Full list of all matches, scores, results, goalscorers
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