France are easing off-field trouble ahead of the World Cup with a comfortable 2-0 win over Austria in the Nations League

By Alasdair Howorth, CNN

After a hot couple of months in the France national team camp, there was much positive news to report in France’s 2-0 win over Austria in Group A of the Nations League on Thursday.

A powerful goal from Kylian Mbappé and a striking header from Olivier Giroud were enough to see Didier Deschamps’ side pass Austria at the bottom of the Nations League group as the world champions look to avoid relegation in the competition after a dismal season.

In front of a raucous crowd at the Stade de France, Les Bleus dominated from start to finish.

Mbappé’s goal was disallowed for offside in the second minute and Aurélien Tchouaméni came close twice in the first half.

The Real Madrid midfielder flew just over the bar with a long-range shot in the 12th minute and just after the half-hour Tchouaméni almost scored one of the goal of the year when he confidently deflected his overhead kick into the bar of Austrian debutant goalkeeper Patrick Pentz .

The home side continued to dominate after the break, with Mbappé in particular showing his sensational best – and it was the Paris Saint-Germain striker who broke the block with a powerful shot from the penalty area after a French counterattack in the 56th minute broke through .

Just 10 minutes later, Giroud sealed victory with a cute header from a cross from Antoine Griezmann. The goal makes Giroud France the oldest goalscorer of all time at 35 years and 357 days, just two behind Thierry Henry’s French record of 51.

Deschamps was optimistic about his team’s performance after the game.

“We did what we had to do,” he said. “Our intentions were good, everyone defended a lot, there are a lot of positives. The attitude was good, it was a very good performance.”

And the former world champion needs to take as many positives with him as possible.

With just a few months to go before the World Cup, the national team is missing numerous players including: Hugo Lloris, Rafaël Varane, Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kanté, Lucas and Theo Hernández and Karim Benzema. Things got even worse when both Mike Maignan and Jules Koundé were eliminated from the match injured.

The injury crisis is just one of many issues Deschamps faces as he attempts to retain the World Cup in Qatar.

As recently as Tuesday, amid an ongoing image rights issue, Mbappé refused to take part in a photoshoot with some of the team’s sponsors. The Paris Saint-Germain star was eventually mollified and attended after he was promised by the French Football Federation they would look into the matter.

That – coupled with the ongoing problems of Pogba, whose brother has been jailed for allegedly blackmailing the Juventus midfielder – has put unnecessary pressure on France ahead of a World Cup they will rank among the favourites.

It wasn’t rosy on the field either. The Nations League champions got off to a disastrous start in their group, where they only recorded two draws and two defeats in four games before Thursday’s win.

A point clear of Austria in the relegation zone ahead of the last game of the group, France will look to build on the momentum of yesterday’s game when they meet Denmark, just a point behind group leaders Croatia.

The world champions have had a poor year so far, but if he can complete his World Cup preparation on the pitch positively, his problems off the pitch may fade as well.

The CNN Wire
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