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Mbappe injury leaves France to prepare Plan B at Euro 2024

Coach optimistic forward will feature in tournament
Kylian Mbappe. Photo via AFP
Kylian Mbappe. Photo via AFP

France boast fearsome strength in depth but remain hugely reliant on Kylian Mbappe for inspiration and are now facing the prospect of being without their injured superstar for at least their next Euro 2024 game against the Netherlands on Friday.

Captain Mbappe is recovering from a broken nose suffered in Monday’s 1-0 win over Austria in Duesseldorf in their opening match at the tournament.

The new Real Madrid signing, who forced the own goal by Maximilian Woeber which decided the game, was badly hurt in a collision with Austrian defender Kevin Danso and had to be replaced by Olivier Giroud.

The French Football Federation later said Mbappe would not need an operation but did admit he would need to be fitted with a mask before he could return to action.

In any case, the lack of time between matches means the clash with the Dutch in Leipzig is set to come too soon for the 25-year-old.

And France coach Didier Deschamps will hope his team can get a positive result which could seal their last-16 place, meaning Mbappe might also be able to sit out the last Group D game against Poland without it being a problem.

But can Les Bleus beat a strong Netherlands side without arguably the world’s most lethal striker?

“Of course he is an important player, the captain, a leader. So that will have an impact, but we have an exceptional squad,” midfielder Adrien Rabiot said on Wednesday.

“I am not going to complain given the lads we have on the bench. We have more than enough options to replace Kylian. I have total confidence in the guys on the bench and the quality we have.”

Mbappe is his country’s third-top scorer of all time with 47 goals from 80 caps, behind only Giroud and Thierry Henry.

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He has only scored once in France’s last six matches, and that was in a pre-tournament friendly against Luxembourg.

However, he had an outsize impact on their performances at the last World Cup, scoring eight goals – half the team’s total – including an astonishing hat-trick in the final against Argentina.

France met the Netherlands twice in Euro 2024 qualifying, and Mbappe scored a brace on each occasion, in a 4-0 win in Paris and in a 2-1 victory in Amsterdam.

Above all, it is worth considering how France have done in recent games without the player who has just ended a prolific seven-year spell at Paris Saint-Germain.

Deschamps’ team lost 2-1 in a friendly in Germany last September when Mbappe was left on the bench. They also laboured to a 0-0 draw against Canada in their final pre-tournament friendly when he only appeared as a late substitute.

Their goal threat is obviously not the same without Mbappe, even if he has still never scored at the European Championship.

At the last Euros three years ago, Mbappe failed to find the net and missed the crucial spot-kick in a last-16 loss on penalties to Switzerland.

Against Austria, he squandered one golden chance when clean through with just the goalkeeper to beat.

The obvious option for Deschamps when it comes to replacing Mbappe would be to start Giroud, even if the big centre-forward is a very different player.

Giroud, who will move to MLS after the tournament, is 37 now and has also been nursing a minor groin injury.

He ended up playing a key role in Qatar, and in similar circumstances – Karim Benzema would have been ahead of him only to pull out injured at the last minute.

“My mindset is always the same, to bring something to the team when the coach gives me the chance,” Giroud said after the Austria game.

“Everyone knows I think about the collective before I think about myself.”

Another option for Deschamps is to move Marcus Thuram in from the left wing and to a central role.

Thuram, though, has only scored twice for his country in 20 caps, and one of them came against Gibraltar.

Then there is Randal Kolo Muani, but he appears low on confidence after a difficult season in Mbappe’s shadow at PSG.

One thing is for sure, France’s performance against Austria – with the returning N’Golo Kante outstanding shielding an impressive defence – indicated they do at least look solid enough to shut most opponents out as they wait for Mbappe to return.

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