Mbappe injury takes sheen off hard-fought French win

Mbappe and Kante
Mbappe and Kante (PC: Euro 2024/X)

RevSportz Comment

French hopes of a first Euro title since 2000, when Didier Deschamps, the current coach, captained the side, suffered a potentially sickening blow when Kylian Mbappe’s nose made contact with Kevin Danso’s shoulder as they both contested a penalty-box header with the clock ticking down. With a match against the Netherlands looming on Friday, Mbappe’s participation is crucial for a French side that were well shackled for much of the game by Ralf Rangnick’s superbly drilled Austrian team.

It was no coincidence that it was Mbappe’s pace and sleight of feet that provided the only goal. A drop of the shoulder and that umatched acceleration took him past the defender and to the dead-ball line. The cut-back from there had enough pace and was at such an awkward height that Max Wober, of Leeds United, almost had no option but to head into his own net.

Either side of Mbappe, Marcus Thuram and Ousmane Dembele offered plenty of energy and endeavour, but little by way of final product. Olivier Giroud, who came on as a late substitute, has the mobility of someone stuck in treacle. Mbappe will be operated on Tuesday, and a speedy recovery is essential to French hopes of going far in the competition. If he has to be nursed back to fitness slowly, France could do worse than to unleash Bradley Barcola, till recently his teammate at PSG, who was so impressive in spells last season.

Austria had plenty of the ball and created chances too, but the country that gave the world Mattias Sindelar and Hans Krankl had no one who could do what matters most – sticking the ball in the net.

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Romania vs Ukraine, Euro 2024
Romania vs Ukraine, Euro 2024 (PC: X)

Romania make a statement

It’s been a long, long time since Romanian football had anything to celebrate. Georghe Hagi and Marius Lacatus lit up a World Cup three decades ago, but the 21st century has seen lean times, with once-famous clubs like Steaua Bucharest also a spent force in European competition. But on Monday, against a Ukraine side that hogged the ball (72 per cent possession) but did little with it, they rolled back the years with a thrilling display of long-range shooting.

Nicolae Stanciu’s wonder strike in the 29th minute was an early contender for goal of the tournament. Razvan Marin nearly matched it with a wonderfully clean hit of his own in the second half, and a third goal for Denis Dragus didn’t flatter the Romanians at all. Ukraine, with Chelsea’s Mykhailo Mudryk on the left flank and the highly rated Georgiy Sudakov as playmaker had their moments, but two shots on target tells its own story. Artem Dovbyk was top scorer in La Liga, but the service to him simply wasn’t up to scratch.

Belgium flatter to deceive again

The headlines will focus on the two marginal offside calls that denied Romelu Lukaku goals against Slovakia, but this was a turgid performance by a side that struggled to break down discipline opposition. Slovakia no longer have the genius of Marek Hamsik, but they defended tigerishly and always looked dangerous on the counter. The goal, which came early, was beautifully taken, and leaves Belgium staring at an early exit if Kevin de Bruyne and co. don’t find their passing rhythms quickly.

Also Read: Kylian Mbappe in hospital after ‘nose break’ at Euro 2024