They will need Kylian Mbappe to continue his exceptional display.
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Another night from the world’s best young player, Mbappe scored the first goal as France cruised past Poland 3-1 to book a place in the quarter-finals against either England or Senegal on Saturday.
“There is no recipe. “No coach knows the recipe to stop Mbappe in his current state,” said Polish coach Czeslaw Michniewicz. “He’s a fantastic player, he hurt us today. But I love it. I’m rooting for him because he’s a real star. I’m talking [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Robert] Lewandowski. Someone will take that position and I think Mbappe will be the best player for many years.
The 23-year-old Mbappe scored his fifth goal in four matches to take the lead in the Golden Boot race – making it four in four years and becoming the youngest goalscorer in a World Cup final since Pele in 1958.
“We know about Killian. We saw it. “He speaks on the pitch,” said France coach Didier Deschamps, adding incredulously, “He didn’t have his best match.”
Deschamps continued: “He can change a match in an instant. He always plays with such joy and we all want to share those smiles with him. “France needed a great Kylian Mbappe tonight and we got him.”
Mbappe set up Olivier Giroud in the 44th minute before Lewandowski scored a late penalty in the 74th minute and extra time.
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Asked about his prospects of winning the Ballon d’Or MVP award, Mbappe said: “The only goal for me is to win the World Cup.”
“Now to win the next game, the quarter-finals, is the most important thing, I dream about it,” he said. “This is the only thing I dream about. I am here to win this World Cup. I’m not here to get the Golden Boot or the Golden Ball. If I win, of course I will be happy. But I’m here to win and I’m here to help the French national team.”
Mbappe has been the star of several matches but has not spoken to reporters before. He apologized on Sunday.
“I just had to focus on the tournament and my football, and if I want to focus on something, that’s what I do,” he said. The French Football Federation has faced a FIFA fine for Mbappe’s media blackout. He offered to pay the fine. Finally, he agreed to talk.
“This is my dream competition and I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I have been preparing physically and mentally for this tournament all season. I wanted to be ready for this tournament and I am, so far things are going well. But we are far from the ultimate goal.”
Poor Poland. In their last two matches against Messi (Argentina) and Mbappe, both of them lost.
Poland, who reached the last 16 for the first time since 1986, featured Lewandowski, one of the world’s best strikers, and Wojciech Szczesny, a brilliant goalkeeper who saved two free-kicks in the group stage.
The Poles did not dare to do their huge duty. Both were disciplined and brave enough not to let France walk over them.
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Les Bleus were up to their old tricks in the first half. Mbappe cuts into the box so hard that Matty Cash’s legs could be broken. Ousmane Dembele’s whipped cross went just wide of Giroud’s sliding goal in the 6-yard box.
In the 38th minute, Poland had the best chance, and the shots were relentless, and they hit France. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris kept out Piotr Cielinski’s 12-yard shot with his knee, Theo Hernandez got behind Zielinski and Raphael Varane cleared the line.
France took the lead six minutes later. While France was exploring, Poland thought it was aligned correctly. In an instant, the goal came. Giroud rose to the top of the box, taking up his position inside Jakub Kivior, and burst into space just as Mbappe produced a well-balanced through pass.
With a 12-yard drive into the far corner, Giroud became France’s all-time goalscorer with 52 goals, one behind Thierry Henry.
“We were fortunate to be ahead at halftime,” Deschamps said. “We gave Poland too many chances.”
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France dominated the second half. The Polish threat was extinguished in the box, and striker Antoine Griezmann passed the ball to the midfield. The counterattack continued.
As Dembele focused on his right, Mbappe fired his engines and drifted unnoticed down the left. Poland’s indifference was almost punished.
Dembele gave the ball. As Mbappe picked his spot and Szczesny bent slightly to the far side, the Frenchman curled a shot from 17 yards out for a corner.
In stoppage time, Mbappe seized a pocket of space, pulled the ball back from a defender and cannoned into the far top corner for his 16th goal in his last 14 internationals and 33rd in 63 French appearances.
“We are happy,” said Mbappe.
Without a doubt, the rest of the World Cup field is on alert.
The World Cup held in Qatar
The latter: England will face Senegal in the round of 16 on Sunday at the World Cup. The winner of that game will face France in the quarter-finals on Saturday after France beat Poland in the round of 16. Follow us live for the latest news, analysis and highlights.
USMNT: The US men’s national team lost to the Netherlands 3-1 in the round of 16 opener on Saturday. The United States has not won a World Cup playoff game since 2002. 16 in South Korea.
Knockout Round Schedule: A World Cup group stage full of shocking upsets and dramatic twists now gives way to the knockout round, which promises more surprises.
Perspective: “Exemplary progress has been made, but even more players have performed in an issue that shows they are on the path to great growth. There is a unity and energy in the United States that should inspire confidence. Read Jerry Brewer on the future of the US men’s national team.