Just as it has throughout much of the World Cup so far, France cruised past its opposition with a 3–1 win against Poland in the round of 16 as it looks to become the first team since Brazil in 1958 and ’62 to win back-to-back World Cup titles.
By advancing to the round of 16, Les Bleus broke a curse of three straight reigning world champions that failed to make it out of the group stage at the following World Cup. Then on Sunday it showed the killer instinct that it often lacked in the group stage and at times during its 2018 run—and it was none other than Kylian Mbappé who led the charge.
While Olivier Giroud made headlines for becoming France’s all-time leading men’s goalscorer, surpassing Thierry Henry’s mark of 51 goals, Mbappé stole the show with two goals of his own. The PSG superstar entered the game tied for the Golden Boot lead in Qatar and now leads the race after scoring his fourth and fifth goals of the tournament.
France will now face the winner of England vs. Senegal in the quarterfinals.
France came out of the gates with plenty of energy with Antoine Griezmann sending in dangerous crosses on a free kick and corner kick in the first five minutes alone. But Poland was able to withstand the early push.
In the 10th minute, France pushed forward once again. Mbappé rushed down the left wing and sent a cross all the way to the far post where Ousmane Dembélé stood, but Dembélé’s chance was blocked just in the knick of time.
Two minutes later, France returned with another chance. This time Aurélien Tchouaméni sent a hard-hit shot from distance that forced Wojciech Szczęsny into a save.
Lewandowski gave Poland its first chance in the 21st minute when he dribbled down the center of the pitch and rifled a shot toward goal that just went wide of the post.
In the 29th minute, Giroud somehow just missed setting France’s all-time men’s goalscoring record when he pushed a wide-open chance just wide after a Dembélé cross.
Poland had its best chances of the match in the 38th minute when France cleared a shot off the line. Following a scramble inside the box, Piotr Zieliński sent a wide-open shot right at Hugo Lloris before Jakub Kamiński’s chance off the rebound was cleared off the line by France
Giroud set the French men’s goalscoring record in the 44th minute with his 52nd international goal. Mbappé created the chance with a diagonal ball from just outside the area that Giroud cleanly sent on target and in.
In the 56th minute, Mbappé saw his goal-bound shot deflected just wide with Szczęsny looking particularly relieved after such a sharp shot.
Two minutes later, France challenged with a chance before a Szczęsny collision with Raphaël Varane stopped the action. Still, it didn’t stop Giroud riffing with a highlight-reel overhead kick.
France struggled to find a critical second goal with Mbappé and Giroud each sending chances well off target in the first 20 minutes of the second half.
Les Bleus found their second goal courtesy of Mbappé in the 74th minute. On a quick counterattack, Giroud pulled a clearance down with an immaculate touch before finding Dembélé down the right. The Barcelona forward drew defenders toward the flank before switching play to Mbappé on the left as the PSG superstar blasted a chance into the top of the goal.
With another touch of class, Mbappé added a second goal in the 91st minute to give France a 3–0 lead. The forward put a pass from Marcus Thuram onto his right foot and beautifully curled his chance from a difficult angle over Szczęsny for the goal.
Lewandowksi pulled one back for Poland at the penalty spot in the dying minutes of the match. After a VAR review awarded a penalty after Dayot Upamecano handled the ball in the box, Lewandowski stepped to the spot and saw a weak chance saved by Lloris.
However, the referee called for a retake after France defenders entered the penalty box prematurely. On his second chance, Lewandowski did his same slow run-up before dispatching the chance into the bottom left.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
Full World Cup Squads
GOALKEEPERS: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes)
DEFENDERS: Axel Disasi (Monaco), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Ibrahima Konaté (Liverpool), Jules Koundé (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphaël Varane (Manchester United)
MIDFIELDERS: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Mattéo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurélien Tchouaméni (Real Madrid), Jordan Veretout (Marseille)
FORWARDS: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembélé (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid), Kylian Mbappé (PSG), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt), Marcus Thuram (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
COACH: Didier Deschamps
GOALKEEPERS: Kamil Grabara (Copenhagen), Łukasz Skorupski (Bologna), Wojciech Szczęsny (Juventus)
DEFENDERS: Jan Bednarek (Aston Villa), Bartosz Bereszynski (Sampdoria), Matty Cash (Aston Villa), Kamil Glik (Benevento), Robert Gumny (Augsburg), Artur Jędrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Jakub Kiwior (Spezia), Mateusz Wieteska (Clermont), Nicola Zalewski (Roma)
MIDFIELDERS: Krystian Bielik (Birmingham City), Przemysław Frankowski (Lens), Kamil Grosicki (Pogon), Jakub Kaminski (Wolfsburg), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Al-Shabab), Michal Skoras (Lech Poznan), Damian Szymański (AEK Athens), Sebastian Szymański (Feyenoord), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli), Szymon Żurkowski (Fiorentina)
FORWARDS: Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona), Arkadiusz Milik (Juventus), Krzysztof Piątek (Salernitana), Karol Świderski (Charlotte FC)