Mbappe scores but France held to 1-1 draw by Poland
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Mbappe scores but France held to 1-1 draw by Poland

France's Kylian Mbappe scores their first goal from the penalty spot. (Reuters photo)
France's Kylian Mbappe scores their first goal from the penalty spot. (Reuters photo)

DORTMUND: A Kylian Mbappe penalty was cancelled out by Robert Lewandowski's spot kick as already-eliminated Poland held France to a nervy 1-1 draw in Dortmund on Tuesday, meaning the French finish second in Group D.

Mbappe broke the deadlock in the 56th minute with his first European Championship goal – and the first scored by a French player at Euro 2024 – when he calmly slotted home a penalty given for Jakub Kiwior's clumsy challenge on Ousmane Dembele.

The lead would have meant France topped the group regardless of the result of a see-saw game between Netherlands and Austria.

However, Dayot Upamecano brought down Polish substitute Karol Swiderksi, which allowed Lewandowski to level from the spot in the 79th minute – after his first effort was saved by Mike Maignan, who was adjudged to have advanced off his line too early.

With Austria then grabbing a later winner against the Dutch, the draw means France finish second in Group D behind Austria and will face whoever comes second in Group E, where Romania, Belgium, Slovakia and Ukraine are all on three points.

It is the first time France have failed to finish top of their group at a major tournament in 12 years under manager Didier Deschamps.

It was another uninspired performance by France, who lacked imagination from top to bottom. They dominated possession but were denied by Poland's excellent goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski who made a string of decent saves to deny Mbappe, Theo Hernandez, Ousmane Dembele and Bradley Barcola´s close-range efforts.

But after Poland found the equaliser, France had to endure a late flurry by the animated Polish who were roared on by their fans who woke up after Lewandowski’s goal to create a raucous atmosphere at Dortmund BVB Stadion.

"I'm not frustrated. The aim was to take first place but we had to win. As soon as you don't win, you have to accept it," Deschamps told TF1.

"We did what we had to do, we had chances... You have to appreciate what we did. We achieved our first objective, even if we didn't get the place we wanted.

"We could have been more effective, even if their keeper made some fine saves. We weren't able to find a safe place..."

Deschamps still seems to be figuring out how to play his forwards after three games, opting to start talisman Antoine Griezmann on the bench against Poland and his role is still unclear.

With Mbappe back into the starting eleven after breaking his nose in their opening match versus Austria, Deschamps deployed two holding midfielders in Adrien Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni which allowed France to use their full backs Jules Kounde and Theo Hernandez in full attacking mode, almost as wingers.

The move, however, didn't help France to be more vertical or aggressive and ended up leaving them exposed to counter attacks as William Saliba and Upamecano were often left alone one-on-one against rival attackers.

After Hernandez and Dembele were denied by Skorupski early on, France looked clueless on how to deal with Poland’s deep five-man defence and Lewandowski almost scored with a close-range header in the 38th minute.

Mbappe finally made his presence felt with two efforts before the break, missing just wide an angled effort and having another denied by Skorupski.

The striker came back looking livelier from the start of the second half running up and down the left channel and forced Skorupski to keep working his magic.

Poland looked to be holding steady without enduring much suffering against a slow and predictable French side when defender Kiwior clattered into Dembele just inside the box gifting their rivals a clear penalty, which Mbappe netted decisevely.

However, when Poland looked to be out of gas after putting in a relentless effort in a sweltering Dortmund in the first-half, they were awarded with a penalty that Lewandowski slotted in his second effort with a tidy finish just outside Maignan’s reach and inside the right post.

It was a goal that dampened France's enthusiasm and left them licking their wounds with the knock-outs around the corner.

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