Title holders France became the first nation to qualify for the 2022 World Cup play-offs after beating Denmark 2-1 at the 974 Stadium in Doha. Kylian Mbappé scored both of Le Bleu’s goals, while Didier Deschamps’ men took the lead twice in Qatar on either side of Andreas Christensen’s header.
That the Dane was still on the pitch was controversial to some after his first half for knocking Mbappe down just as the Paris Saint-Germain speedster was about to accelerate. However, the French ended up picking up an undeserved victory over a determined Scandinavian team thanks to a 23-year-old miracle.
Christensen’s yellow card in the 20th minute was the first big talking point in the first half, with few chances as he brought Mbappe into the group when the Frenchman was about to hit the afterburner and break through the Danish defensive line. While it’s hard to argue that it was a clear goal-scoring opportunity at that moment, a matter of seconds would have made it one if Mbappé had reached the speed of light.
Instead, Kasper Schmeichel turned down Adrien Rabiot, Andreas Cornelius missed the best chance for Kasper Hulmand’s men when he crossed wide after being played without checking by Hugo Lloris, and Mbappe missed a good opportunity after being discovered by Ousmane Dembele. Teams scored goalless at half-time and temperatures soared as the game heated up.
Antoine Griezmann had his first real chance in the second half when he flared up shortly before the hour mark after batting the ball with his chest to hit the ball nicely from long range. However, France began to rely on Mbappe’s fast pace to get around the Danish defense and break the deadlock in Doha.
Minutes later, Mbappe opened the scoring after the PSG player traded with the impressive Theo Hernandez on the left before finishing past Schmeichel with a slight deflection. Offensive coordinator Olivier Giroud was recalled immediately after the strike, which was Mbappe’s 30th French-colored strike – on par with Jean-Pierre Papin and Juste Fontaine.
However, France only had a seven-minute lead when Christensen popped up and headed home powerfully past Lloris in front of Rabiot to equalize. The goal encouraged the Danish team and within minutes Lloris was forced to make a great save to recapture Lindström as Les Bleus lost their defense and midfield structure after Giroud left.
Aurélien Chouameni saw his header scuttled by the Danes’ backline before Rabiot flashed an acrobatic over-the-bar shot that would have looked like Richarlison had it hit the net. Substitute Martin Braithwaite shot wide of the target as things later brightened up as Mbappe looked for a historic second chance.
France No. 10 achieved this in just four minutes of 90 when he scored from an assist from Griezmann and equaled the great Pelé in seven under-24 World Cup goals. Deschamps’ men held on at the 974 Stadium for their second win in as many games to top Group D and become the first reigning European World Champions since Germany in 1994 not to be eliminated from the group stage.