DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Kylian Mbappe’s goals took defending champion France into the knockout spherical of the World Cup. Raphael Varane’s return gave the French camp an added purpose to have a good time.
The pre-tournament injury blues are fading, Les Bleus are feeling upbeat once more and looking out like one of many match favorites.
Mbappe’s two targets in Saturday’s 2-1 win in opposition to Denmark helped the French turn out to be the primary defending World Cup champions to achieve the spherical of 16 since Brazil in 2006.
France’s night time was made even higher by the return of Varane to the middle of protection. It was the elegant defender’s first sport since limping off in tears after sustaining a hamstring injury playing for Manchester United on Oct. 11.
There have been real fears his World Cup may be over, or that he wouldn’t be match sufficient to play in Qatar.
However his 88th look for Les Bleus went easily.
“I’m very completely satisfied, very happy to be right here. I’ve labored very onerous and I loved it loads,” Varane stated after the sport. “It’s all the time particular to play at a World Cup, to play in your nation. I’m taking advantage of it.”
His calming presence, distinctive studying of the sport and powerful heading capability had been on show at Stadium 974, the place he performed alongside Dayot Upamecano.
Varane lasted 75 minutes with none obvious discomfort, earlier than coach Didier Deschamps gave him a breather forward of table-topping France’s last Group D sport Wednesday in opposition to Tunisia.
With France already by, it’s a low-pressure match that offers Deschamps a possibility to check one other central defensive partnership with Varane alongside Ibrahima Konate — who performed within the 4-1 win against Australia.
Then Deschamps can determine which pairing he prefers for the spherical of 16.
It was a aid for Deschamps to see Varane come by a bodily encounter unscathed, much more so as a result of he has so many stars lacking.
Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema; key midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante; central defender Presnel Kimpembe, left again Lucas Hernandez, and ahead Christopher Nkunku had been all dominated out of the World Cup by accidents.
So it could have been a crushing blow for Deschamps to lose Varane, his finest defender when France gained the 2018 World Cup and a hugely-respected member of the squad.
Luck may very well be turning France’s method, with Theo Hernandez changing his injured brother at left again and organising Mbappe’s first purpose in opposition to Denmark after a slick one-two with the PSG star, who has three targets within the match.
AP World Cup protection: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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