Giroud deserves it: Deschamps

France coach praises veteran striker, team's mindset as more injuries hit depleted squad

PARIS - France kept their hopes of staying in the top tier of the Nations League alive as goals by Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud secured a 2-0 home victory over Austria on Thursday.

Mbappe produced a stunning strike before Giroud, 35, sealed the win to become the oldest player to score for France.

The world champions, who travel to Denmark on Sunday, climbed to third in Group 1 with five points from as many games.

Victory came at a price, however, as defender Jules Kounde and goalkeeper Mike Maignan suffered injuries, and will join Karim Benzema, Hugo Lloris and Paul Pogba on the sidelines.

France coach Didier Deschamps was satisfied with the performance in front of an unusually enthusiastic crowd.

"We did what we had to do," he said. "Our intentions were good, everyone defended a lot, there are a lot of positives. The mindset was good, a very good performance."

The hosts, who had lost two and drawn two of their four previous games, came out with all guns blazing at the Stade de France.

Mbappe fired a shot into the top corner as early as the second minute but the effort was disallowed for offside.

Aurelien Tchouameni's attempt from just outside the box after a quick combination play between Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe was tipped over by Austria goalkeeper Patrick Pentz as Les Bleus piled on the pressure.

Kounde joined a long French injury list when he limped off the pitch, with William Saliba coming in, and Maignan was replaced by Alphonse Areola at half-time.

The injuries did not stall the hosts' momentum as Mbappe tormented the Austrian defence with his pace and created space for his teammates, with Jonathan Clauss just missing out on a goal early in the second half.

He broke the deadlock with a cool finish after beating five defenders following a perfect pass from Giroud.

It spurred Ralf Rangnick's Austria into action but they lacked accuracy in the box and it was France who scored again.

Giroud found the back of the net in the 65th minute from Griezmann's pinpoint cross for his 49th international goal, two shy of Thierry Henry's national record.

The AC Milan striker was 70 days older than Roger Marche when the latter scored for France against Spain in 1959.

"Olivier deserves it, I am very happy for him. He had difficult periods with his club but always performed well with us. If I call him, it's so he can score goals. And he had many opportunities," Deschamps told L'Equipe.

Giroud was replaced by Ousmane Dembele to a standing ovation by the Stade de France crowd, leaving Deschamps with a tricky decision before November's World Cup Finals in Qatar.

The veteran was called up only in the absence of Benzema, but his strike against Austria showed how handy he can be, even if he is just a squad option.

However, Deschamps refused to guarantee Giroud a spot for Qatar, saying: "Do not put words in my mouth. I did not say that he would be there. There is competition for every position and I can only take 26 players."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2022, with the headline Giroud deserves it: Deschamps. Subscribe