Nations League: Mbappe gives France first victory; Belgium and Netherlands prevail

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Les Bleus faced serious injury difficulties heading into the international break, with Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante among the absentees, and often lacked fluidity at the Stade de France in Paris.

But Mbappe stepped up after 56 minutes to drive past numerous defenders and finish past Patrick Pentz before Giroud headed in to help Didier Deschamps’ side to victory.

The winners of the last edition, France will now have their Nations League relegation fate in their hands, but cannot progress through Group A1 after leaders Croatia downed Denmark.

France visit Denmark in their final Nations League fixture on Sunday before November’s Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, while host Croatia on the same day.

Meanwhile, Cody Gakpo and Steven Bergwijn were on target as the Netherlands ran out 2-0 winners over Poland in Group A4.

The Oranje dominated the first half at the PGE Narodowy in Warsaw and went in at the break 1-0 up thanks to Gakpo’s close-range finish after 13 minutes.

Poland threatened an equaliser at the start of the second period, but Bergwijn sealed all three points on the hour mark with a composed finish.

The Netherlands were excellent value for their win, with the only disappointment for Van Gaal being that they did not beat a poor Poland side by a greater margin.

Now they just need to safely navigate Sunday’s mouth-watering clash against their neighbours to book their spot in next year’s Finals.

Gakpo has scored eight goals in seven Eredivisie games for PSV this season and he continued that fine form on the international stage, stroking the Netherlands ahead early on with his third goal at this level.

Robert Lewandowski cut a frustrated figure up front for Poland. The Barcelona man has been one of Europe’s most potent strikers for the past decade, yet he failed to have a single shot here as his side struggled to break down their opponents.

Kevin De Bruyne was on target as Belgium kept their faint hopes of progressing to the Nations League Finals alive with a 2-1 victory over Wales.

De Bruyne opened the scoring and set up the second goal for Michy Batshuayi at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, as the Red Devils remained three points behind leaders Netherlands in Group A4.

The Red Devils, whose head coach Roberto Martinez was sent from the touchline for time-wasting, need an emphatic win over the Dutch when they meet on Sunday to reach the Finals.

Belgium took just 10 minutes to break through as De Bruyne applied a wonderful first-time finish to Batshuayi’s lay-off to the edge of the penalty area.

Youri Tielemans steered Yannick Carrasco’s cross off target and Batshuayi fired over from a tight angle as the Red Devils continued to dominate, while the woodwork denied De Bruyne a second goal as he rattled the post from 20 yards out.

Eden Hazard then curled narrowly wide before the hosts doubled their lead in the 37th minute. This time, De Bruyne was the provider; sweeping in a pinpoint cross for Batshuayi to touch home.

The visitors halved the deficit within five minutes of the restart as Moore rose to head home Brennan Johnson’s inviting cross.

(With OPTA inputs)

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