France scrape past Austria in Euro 2024 opener despite Mbappe’s broken nose

Maximilian Woeber’s own goal was enough to give France a winning start to their Euro 2024 campaign on Monday as they edged Austria 1-0 in their opening game but Kylian Mbappe came off late on with a broken nose.

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Woeber diverted Mbappe’s cutback into his own net seven minutes before half-time in Duesseldorf to allow the French, one of the leading contenders to win the tournament, to come through a stiff test.

Austria have been much-improved under Ralf Rangnick and they often made life uncomfortable for the 2022 World Cup runners-up, who saw Mbappe leave the field near the end after being hurt in a collision.

He had earlier failed to convert a glorious chance that would have allowed France to win by a wider margin, and sources close to the player confirmed he had broken his nose in the accidental clash with Kevin Danso.

“We had the chance to put the game to bed and it is true that we could have been more precise in attack, but it’s very good to start with a victory,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.

“It is a good habit to have and we need to try to keep it.”

France will be relieved to have emerged victorious after a build-up overshadowed by talk of politics rather than football.

Mbappe and other French players had spent much of their time before the media in recent days answering questions about upcoming elections in the country which could see the far-right National Rally become the biggest party.

Any slip-up here would have led to suggestions their minds had not been fully focused on the competition.

Instead, the result leaves France level on three points in Group D with the Netherlands, who defeated Poland 2-1 in Hamburg on Sunday.

France and the Netherlands meet next in Leipzig on Friday, while Austria face Poland earlier the same day in Berlin.

“We are obviously disappointed with the result. No France player scored against us in 100 minutes, just a very unfortunate own goal,” said Rangnick.

“I think Didier Deschamps was really happy when the final whistle came which shows how well my team played.”

Austria had enjoyed some impressive results coming into the tournament on a seven-game unbeaten run and their team is on familiar ground during these Euros — Rangnick is from Germany and eight of their starting line-up played in the German Bundesliga last season.

Woeber own goal

The French, however, are arguably the most talented team at the tournament, led by their captain Mbappe.

He endured a miserable time at his only previous Euros three years ago, failing to score and missing the decisive penalty in a shoot-out defeat by Switzerland in the last 16.

The new Real Madrid signing will wonder how he did not score in this game, with his first big opportunity arriving inside eight minutes.

Antoine Griezmann and Theo Hernandez combined to release Mbappe, who cut in from the left as he loves to do and shaped to curl a shot into the far corner before instead aiming for the near post.

However, Austria goalkeeper Patrick Pentz was able to make the save.

The Austrians settled into the contest and passed up a wonderful chance of their own to go ahead on 36 minutes.

Skipper Marcel Sabitzer touched down a Michael Gregoritsch cross from the left for Christoph Baumgartner, but he was foiled by goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

That proved crucial as France took the lead two minutes later.

Ousmane Dembele gave the ball to Mbappe on the right, and he produced a stepover to get to the byline before his cutback was nodded into the far corner of his own net by the unfortunate Woeber.

Mbappe was then thwarted by Pentz as he tried to go around the goalkeeper in first-half stoppage time, but that was nothing compared to the chance he squandered 10 minutes after the restart.

Adrien Rabiot sent Mbappe away, bounding in behind the Austrian defence, but he somehow put his shot wide with just the goalkeeper to beat.

That left the game in the balance, and Austria continued to push for a leveller, without success.

Their fans were less than impressed by what they perceived as timewasting late on from Mbappe, who needed treatment after colliding with Danso in the box.

He left the pitch with his shirt stained by blood, only to then come back on and sit down, earning himself a yellow card before being replaced by Olivier Giroud.

(AFP)

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