PARIS (Reuters) – France kept its hopes of remaining in the top tier of the Nations League alive as goals from Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud secured a 2-0 home win over Austria on Thursday.
Mbappe scored a stunning goal before Giroud, 35, sealed the win with a header, becoming the oldest player to score for France.
The world champions, who travel to Denmark on Sunday, climbed up to third in Group 1 with five points from as many games.
The victory came at a price, however, as defender Jules Kounde and goalkeeper Mike Maignan both picked up injuries and could join Karim Benzema, Hugo Lloris and Paul Pogba on the touchline.
France coach Didier Deschamps was pleased with the performance in front of an unusually enthusiastic crowd.
“We did what we had to do,” said the 1998 world champion. “Our intentions were good, everyone defended a lot, there are a lot of positives. The attitude was good, it was a very good performance.”
The hosts, who had lost two of their previous four games and drawn two, were in full swing at the Stade de France.
Mbappe fired a shot into the top corner in the second minute but the try was disallowed for offside.
Aurelien Tchouameni’s attempt from just outside the box following a quick combination between Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe was knocked down by Austria keeper Patrick Pentz as Les Bleus increased the pressure.
Defender Kounde joined a long French injury list when he limped off with a muscle problem and Maignan was replaced at half-time by Alphonse Areola with a calf problem.
Mbappe teased the Austrian defense with his pace, creating space for his teammates, Jonathan Clauss just missing 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 on but they lacked accuracy in the box and it was France who scored again.
Giroud scored in the 65th minute from a spot-on Griezmann cross for his 49th international goal, two goals 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’m very happy for him. He’s had difficult periods at his club but he’s always performed well for us. When I call him, it’s for him to score goals. And he had a lot of chances,” said Deschamps versus L’Equipe.
Amid a standing ovation from the Stade de France crowd, the AC Milan striker was replaced by Ousmane Dembele, leaving Deschamps, who only called up Giroud in Benzema’s absence, with a tricky decision ahead of November’s World Cup.
“Don’t put words in my mouth. I didn’t say he would be there. There is competition for every position and I can only take 26 players,” said Deschamps.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot and Tommy Lund; Editing by Ed Osmond)