Varane's France cruise to the quarter-finals

Sunday 04 December 2022 17:26

Raphael Varane's goal-saving clearance in the first half helped provided the foundations for France's 3-1 win over Poland, as Les Bleus progressed into the last eight of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

There was much anticipation before kick-off at the Al Thumama Stadium, with the reigning world champions having been defeated 1-0 by Tunisia in the last group-stage match, but Didier Deschamps's side showed few signs of complacency as they dominated Poland from start to finish to progress to the next round of the competition in convincing style.

Olivier Giroud's cool finish just before the break and Kylian Mbappe's devastating double in the second period put clear daylight between France and their Eastern European counterparts, before Robert Lewandowski grabbed a consolation for Poland with an injury-time penalty.

Despite their attacking flair, Les Bleus' resilient backline - in particular United's Varane - and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris played key roles in the victory, as the World Cup holders put in a complete performance to reach the quarter-finals.

Les Bleus began the match with purpose, and almost took the lead through Varane within the first few minutes, with the United defender heading narrowly over from Antoine Griezmann's pinpoint corner.

Poland dealt with France's threat well in the opening stages, with Ousmane Dembele seeing his effort blocked, before Aurelien Tchouameni's drive from distance was parried away by Wojciech Szczesny.

But the attacking waves from Deschamps's side continued in the first half, with Dembele driving forward well and striking low, but his effort lacked the power to really trouble Szczesny.

With 20 minutes on the clock, Robert Lewandowski reminded France that they were in a competitive contest, picking the ball up on the edge of the box and firing a fierce shot with his left foot which screamed past the post.

On the half-hour, when Poland appeared to have taken the sting out of Les Bleus, Przemyslaw Frankowski's wayward pass gifted an opportunity to the World Cup holders. Griezmann latched onto the miscue before feeding Dembele down the right, but when the Barcelona winger sent a powerful low ball to a stretching Giroud at the back post, the striker sliced his effort wide.

Despite France's pressure, Poland came agonisingly close to making it 1-0 as half-time approached, with Lloris saving expertly from Piotr Zielinski's close-range shot, before Varane reacted brilliantly to block the follow-up on the line and keep the score level.

Moments later, Deschamps's side took the lead when Mbappe found Giroud in the box and the striker finished clinically, making him France's undisputed all-time top scorer with 52 goals, surpassing Thierry Henry's tally of 51.

The final ball was lacking for both sides immediately after the restart, with Griezmann's whipped free-kick the closest either team came to scoring the game's second goal.

With 55 minutes on the clock, Mbappe again caused defensive worries for Poland, cutting inside on his right foot and shooting across goal. However, Kamil Glik did well to close down the PSG winger and deflect his effort wide.

The first 20 minutes of second half were not as littered with chances as the first, with both teams competing in something of a war of attrition.

Kylian Mbappe was a threat throughout, and was eventually rewarded with a superb second-half brace against Poland.

But as Poland pushed forward in search of a goal, the match opened up, and France punished them. On the counter-attack, Giroud and Dembele combined to find Mbappe on the left, and the forward set himself and fired devastatingly into the back of the net to double his nation's lead.

As the match entered the closing stages, Mbappe added to his tally, turning inside the box before firing another unstoppable shot into the top corner, beyond the reach of Szczesny.

In the dying moments, after a lengthy VAR check, Poland were awarded a chance to get a consolation from the penalty spot. Lewandowski's initial spot-kick was saved by Lloris, but after a re-take being awarded, he made no mistake second-time round.

Next up for Rapha and Les Bleus is a quarter-final match (to be played at 19:00 GMT on Saturday 10 December) against either England or Senegal. The last-16 clash between these two sides takes place on Sunday evening (19:00 GMT).