France cruise past Poland to book World Cup quarter-final spot

France celebrate their second goal at Al Thumama Stadium on their way to a 3-1 win over Poland on December 4, 2022 [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Olivier Giroud becomes France’s highest scorer with 52 goals as his team achieves 3-1 win in last 16.

A goal for Olivier Giroud and two for Kylian Mbappe saw France beat Poland 3-1 to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Qatar.

With his point, Giroud became France’s highest scorer at 52 goals as France dominated the game on Sunday at Al Thumama Stadium.

They took command of the match from the start, looking to find space behind the Polish defence, but Mbappe’s first forays failed to lead to clear chances.

Poland were in the knockout stage for the first time since 1986 and looking for their first quarter-final appearance since 1982, but France’s midfield did a great job at cutting their feeding line to star striker Robert Lewandowski, who reduced the arrears with a twice-taken, last-second penalty.

French keeper Hugo Lloris made his 142nd appearance and is now tied with Lilian Thuram as France’s most-capped player. His experience mattered when he made a superb quick save to deny Piotr Zielinski.

Poland made the game more difficult for France than the score might suggest [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Poland’s poise came close to being rewarded in the 38th minute when onrushing Zielinski’s shot was parried by Lloris. The ball then came back into the midfielder’s path, but his second attempt was deflected by Theo Hernandez.

Jakub Kaminski followed, only for his shot to be saved close to the goal line by Raphael Varane.

One minute from the break, however, France’s tactics paid off.

Mbappe drew the defence to him and slid the ball through into the path of Giroud, who grabbed the inch of space he needed to clip the ball past Szczesny and net his third goal of the tournament.

The 36-year-old Giroud, who did not score in Russia four years ago, had drawn level with Thierry Henry on 51 goals after netting a double in the defending champions’ 4-1 win over Australia in their opening Group D game.

Mbappe made it 2-0 with a powerful, rising shot that went under the bar before he curled another jaw-dropping shot into the top corner one minute into injury time.

They were his fourth and fifth goals in Qatar, and Mbappe became the first player to score nine World Cup goals before his 24th birthday, having already netted as many as Argentina’s 35-year-old Lionel Messi. Mbappe could still play in two more World Cups by the time he’s 32.

It helped Mbappe to erase painful memories from last year’s European championship when he missed the decisive penalty that sent Switzerland into the last eight after a shootout following a 3-3 draw.

A handball by Dayot Upamecano gave Lewandowski a chance to score a consolation goal with a penalty that was first saved by Lloris before being retaken – and scored – because the keeper did not have his feet on the line

France will play in in the quarter-finals against the winner of Sunday night’s clash between England and Senegal.

Coach Didier Deschamps had warned that there was more to Poland than Lewandowski, and he was proved right as the French were at times shaky at the back.

“It’s not been easy because they’re a well-organised team and we had to make some positional changes at half-time,” Deschamps said.

“We’re a united squad, and tonight the players’ impeccable behaviour has been rewarded,” he said. “Now we’re going to spend a little bit of time with our families.”



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