Mbappe stars for France; wins for Croats, Dutch and Belgians
PARIS (AP) — Kylian Mbappe added another fine solo goal to his collection and Olivier Giroud moved closer to France’s scoring record as the defending World Cup champions beat Austria 2-0 in the Nations League on Thursday.
Mbappe skipped past three defenders before drilling in his 28th international goal in the 56th minute, before Giroud celebrated his recall by heading powerfully in from Antoine Griezmann’s cross 10 minutes later to move onto 49 goals — two behind Thierry Henry’s national record.
France already lost its Nations League title but Croatia, the Netherlands and Belgium — also playing their penultimate matches before the World Cup in Qatar — all won on Thursday to stay in contention for the Nations League’s Final Four next June.
France’s victory also saved it from relegation from the top tier of the Nations League, sending Austria into last place with one game left but with only one point between them.
Croatia leapfrogged Denmark at the top of Group 1 by one point after beating the Danes 2-1 in Zagreb with goals from left back Borna Sosa in the 49th minute and midfielder Lovro Majer in the 79th, two minutes after Christian Eriksen’s equalizer.
The Group 1 winner and relegation will be decided on Sunday when France travels to play Denmark in Copenhagen and the Austrians host Croatia in Vienna.
The same goes for Group 4, although the Netherlands is heavy favorite since it leads Belgium by three points and has a better goal difference. The Belgians need to win by three goals in Amsterdam on Sunday.
The Netherlands won 2-0 in Poland with Cody Gakpo putting the Dutch ahead in the 13th minute and fellow forward Steven Bergwijn curling the second home in the 60th.
Belgium beat Wales 2-1 at home with standout midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and forward Michy Batshuayi scoring in the first half. Striker Kieffer Moore pulled a goal back shortly after the break for Wales, which is in last place and three points behind Poland before their meeting in Cardiff.
At Stade de France, defender Benoit Badiashile made his France debut alongside Monaco teammate Youssouf Fofana, who lined up in central midfield alongside Real Madrid’s Aurelien Tchouameni — their former Monaco teammate.
Mbappe’s early curler into top right corner was disallowed for offside and he then fluffed a chance after a slick one-touch combination with Giroud. Tchouameni hit the crossbar with a superb overhead kick late in the first half.
Mbappe missed a great chance to score a second goal when he went clean through and shot wide.
Earlier, Spain-based winger Awer Mabil scored his eighth goal in 29 appearances for Australia and the Socceroos beat New Zealand 1-0 Thursday at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
In the 32nd minute, Australia midfielder Jackson Irvine poached the ball in New Zealand’s half and fed Mabil, who stepped around a defender and sent a long-range strike into the bottom corner of the net. Mabil plays for Spanish club Cádiz.
“Far from satisfied, to be honest,” Irvine said. “There’s a lot of things we could have done better, but at the end of the day, a win is a win.”
It was Australia’s last home match before the World Cup in Qatar. The teams play again on Sunday in Auckland. New Zealand did not qualify for the World Cup.
Australia advanced to its fifth consecutive World Cup in the final phase of qualifying after a penalty shootout win over Peru in Qatar in June. The Socceroos are in Group D and play play France, Tunisia and Denmark.
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