France kept hopes of remaining in the Nations League top flight alive when goals from Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud secured a 2-0 home win over Austria on Thursday.
Mbappe opened the scoring with a smashing goal before Giroud, who once again proved to manager Didier Deschamps that he is more than a third-choice forward, sealed the world champions’ victory with a header.
France, who will go to Denmark on Sunday, have climbed to third place in Group A1 with five points from as many games.
The win came at a price, however, as defender Jules Kounde and goalkeeper Mike Maignan were injured and could join Karim Benzema, Hugo Lloris and Paul Pogba on the sidelines.
The hosts, who had lost two and drew two of their previous four games, went out with full guns at the Stade de France.
Mbappé fired a shot into the corner in the second minute, but the shot was disallowed for offside.
Aurelien Tchouameni’s attempt from just outside the box after a quick combination between Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe was overturned by Austrian goalkeeper Patrick Pentz as Les Bleus increased the pressure.
Defender Kounde became the latest victim of an injury-ravaged side when he limped off the pitch with a muscle problem and Maignan was replaced by Alphonse Areola at half-time due to calf pain.
Mbappe, denied by Pentz after the one-two with Giroud, torments the Austrian defense with his rhythm and creates space for his teammates, Jonathan Clauss misses a goal by a little at the beginning of the second half.
Mbappe broke the deadlock with a fine finish after beating five defenders on a perfect pass from Giroud.
He pushed Austria into action but lacked accuracy in the box and it was France who scored again.
Giroud found the net in the 65th minute from Griezmann’s cross for his 49th international goal, two less than Thierry Henry’s national record.
The AC Milan striker was replaced by Ousmane Dembele amid the standing ovation of the Stade de France crowd, leaving Deschamps – who only called Giroud in Benzema’s absence – with a difficult decision before the November World Cup.
Holland closes the Nations League Finals
Cody Gakpo scored early and Steven Bergwijn added a second to earn the Holland a 2-0 away win Poland Thursday and bring them within a point of winning their Nations League group.
The unbeaten Dutchman have now won four of Group A4’s five games and are three points clear of Belgium, who beat Wales 2-1.
The Dutch only need a home draw against Belgium in Amsterdam on Sunday to secure a place in next year’s Nations League four-team final.
Gakpos’s 13th-minute lead at Narodowy Stadium came at the end of a smooth pass, as the striker only had to touch home Denzel Dumfries’ perfect square pass after the Polish defense was torn apart.
Bergwijn doubled the lead in the 60th minute, coming in from the left flank to play a clever one-two with substitute Vincent Janssen and cleverly wrapping the ball into the net.
The win was well deserved by the well-deserved Dutch as their high-pressure play routinely robbed Poland of ball possession and allowed the visitors to dictate the pace of the game.
But the scenario would have been different if Polish half-time substitute Arkadiusz Milik hadn’t missed point blank after being blocked by a Przemyslaw Frankowski cross shortly after entry.
It was Poland’s only clear chance, but Milik inexplicably put aside his effort to help the Dutch reach their first clean sheet in seven games this year.
Dutch manager Louis van Gaal surprised by picking 38-year-old Ajax goalkeeper Remko Pasveer, making him the second-oldest rookie in the country after Sander Boschker, who was nearly 40 when he won his only appearance on goal against Ghana in the warm-up of the World Cup friendly in 2010.
Van Gaal told Dutch television before kick-off that he was “intrigued” to see what Pasveer could add to the team after a good start to the season with Ajax, but there was not much for the goalkeeper to do.
Croatia lead Group A1 with victory
Croatia substitute Lovro Majer scored a late goal as they batted Denmark 2-1 on Thursday at the top of Group A1 with the winner arriving two minutes after visiting captain Christian Eriksen’s superb equalizer.
After beating the Danes in Copenhagen in June, the Croatians repeated the feat by reaching 10 points in five games, one ahead of Denmark in their run to the Nations League semi-final.
Defender Borna Sosa, born in Zagreb’s Precko district, learned his trade at Dinamo before moving to VfB Stuttgart, opening the scoring by scoring at home from the edge of the box four minutes after half-time.
Although Denmark’s attack failed for much of the night, Eriksen’s magic moment looked set to secure a point when he fired home a brilliant diving shot in the 77th minute.
The relief was short-lived, however, when Majer, replacing Mateo Kovacic after Eriksen’s goal, picked up the ball from the edge of the box and passed goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Elsewhere in the Nations League …
It was a busy evening in League C. In Group C3, Azerbaijan secured a late win Slovakia. They had led for much of the match and immediately responded to Erik Jirka’s equalizer to take all three points.
In group C1, Turkey came from behind three times to draw 3-3 with Luxembourg in Istanbul. Lithuania also 1-1 draw with Faroe Islands.
In League D, Andorra they were 2-0 winners against Liechtensteinwith Moldova beat lative 2-1. Kazakhstan also beat Belarus 2-1, although Askhat Tagybergen was sent off in the final for a second yellow card.
Lithuania and Belarus both relegated to Group D.