Olivier Giroud scored his 52nd goal for France to become his country’s all-time top scorer and Kylian Mbappe added two more as they beat Poland 3-1 in the World Cup round of 16 on Sunday.
Giroud’s 44th-minute strike at Al Thumama Stadium put him ahead of fellow former Arsenal and Les Bleus forward Thierry Henry for France.
Mbappe doubled the advantage for Didier Deschamps’ men and added another before full-time to move two goals clear as the tournament’s top scorer in Qatar.
Poland had earlier put up a fight against the reigning world champions and scored a last-kick consolation after Robert Lewandowski converted a retaken penalty.
A bright start from France was low on clear chances, though Giroud should have had his goal earlier but could not divert Ousmane Dembele’s low cross from the right into the net.
Poland had opportunities of their own in the first half and were somehow denied in the 38th minute when Bartosz Bereszynski’s cut-back from the left found Piotr Zielinski, who hit his shot straight at Hugo Lloris, before his follow-up was also blocked and then Jakub Kaminski saw his effort stopped by Raphael Varane.
Giroud had his moment just before the break when some neat passing around the box led to Mbappe playing a quick pass into the striker, who finished well past former Arsenal team-mate Wojciech Szczesny.
The 36-year-old had the ball in the net again just before the hour with a spectacular overhead kick, but the whistle had already gone for a foul on Szczesny.
Mbappe struck with 16 minutes remaining to ultimately seal the win, with nice work again from Giroud leading to Dembele finding Mbappe to the left of the penalty area, before the Paris Saint-Germain star curled the ball high past Szczesny into the near post.
The Golden Boot leader put the game beyond doubt in stoppage time, again receiving the ball to the left of the penalty area before placing it expertly into the top-right corner of the net.
Poland were awarded a last-minute penalty after a VAR check for handball against Dayot Upamecano, and despite seeing his first effort saved by Hugo Lloris, Lewandowski sent the goalkeeper the wrong way with his second attempt after Lloris was found to be off his line for the first.
What does it mean? World Cup retention still on for Les Bleus
This was not always the routine win a 3-1 scoreline suggests, but France showed their credentials to get the job done in the second half.
Since the round of 16 was introduced at the 1986 World Cup, France have appeared at this stage on six occasions and progressed from all six ties (also 1986, 1998, 2006, 2014 and 2018). The only other nations to appear at this stage more than once and progress each time are Germany (8/8) and Croatia (2/2).
Czeslaw Michniewicz’s men head home after Poland’s first match in the knockout stage of a World Cup since 1986.
Giroud stands alone
The Milan striker is perennially underrated, but can now claim his place atop France’s top scorer list, even if Mbappe feels destined to one day overtake him.
At the age of 36 years and 65 days, Giroud also became the oldest goalscorer in the knockout stages of the World Cup since Roger Milla in the 1990 round of 16 game against Colombia (38y, 34d).
Mbappe burns through Cash
When Matty Cash decided to represent Poland instead of England, he probably dreamed of the day he could face someone like Mbappe at the World Cup.
While it was not exactly a nightmare, with the Aston Villa full-back holding his own on occasion, Mbappe was in the mood and attempted nine dribbles, five more than anyone else on the pitch, having five shots and 11 touches in the opposition box.
Key Opta Facts:
– France have only lost one of their seven games in the World Cup knockout stages under Didier Deschamps (including finals), with that defeat coming in 2014 to eventual winners Germany (1-0 in the quarter-final). They have won each of their past five games in the World Cup knockout stage since that defeat.
Mbappe has scored five goals in four games at the 2022 World Cup, already surpassing his goal tally from his previous appearance in the tournament in 2018 (four goals in seven appearances). Mbappe is also the youngest French player on record (since 1966) to score and assist in a World Cup knockout stage game (23y, 349d).
– Antoine Griezmann has created 15 chances in four games at the 2022 World Cup; the most of any player in the current tournament. Indeed, this is already the most that a French player has created in a single World Cup tournament this century.
– Lloris made his 142nd appearance for France in this game, equalling Lilian Thuram (142) as the most-capped player in the history of the French national team. This was his 32nd appearance at a major tournament, which also saw him equal Thuram (32) for the most appearances at the World Cup and European Championships combined for Les Bleus.
– Poland have lost consecutive World Cup games by multiple goals for the first time since 2002 (2-0 v South Korea and 4-0 v Portugal).
France progress to face the winner of England versus Senegal next Saturday, while it is the end of the road in Qatar for Poland.