Olivier Giroud (left) of France celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Netherlands.
Olivier Giroud (left) of France celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Netherlands.

Emphatic end to France’s only WC question mark

WORLD champions France registered their first UEFA Nations League victory overnight as goals from Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe helped Les Bleus to a 2-1 win over the Netherlands.

Elsewhere, Spurs star Christian Eriksen netted twice to guide Denmark to a 2-0 win over Wales, while in friendly action, Germany sneaked past Peru 2-1.

HERE'S A FULL WRAP OF THE MAJOR OVERNIGHT ACTION...

 

FRANCE 2-1 NETHERLANDS

Olivier Giroud ended his international goal drought with the winner as France beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Sunday in their first match on home soil since lifting the World Cup in July.

Giroud swept in a Benjamin Mendy cross in the 75th minute for his first goal in 11 games in a France shirt, after the Chelsea striker went through the entirety of his country's triumphant campaign in Russia without finding the net.

Kylian Mbappe had earlier put France ahead in an explosive performance from the 19-year-old, before Ryan Babel briefly restored parity in the second half.

The Stade de France exploded in celebration at Giroud's winner in a game that had a competitive edge as part of UEFA's new Nations League.

However, this match on a balmy evening was really just a prelude to World Cup victory celebrations on the pitch in front of almost 80,000 fans at the national stadium after the final whistle.

The French team and their supporters saw this occasion as the opportunity to make up for the lack of a memorable public celebration in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup triumph in Russia.

The day after beating Croatia 4-2 in July's final in Moscow, Les Bleus paraded hurriedly down the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris en route to a reception hosted by President Emmanuel Macron.

The rushed nature of the celebrations disappointed the estimated 300,000 fans who took to the streets that evening, and this time the French Football Federation ensured their victorious squad were presented one by one to supporters after the final whistle.

Kylian Mbappe of France kisses the World Cup trophy during a ceremony to celebrate France's victory in the FIFA 2018 World Cup
Kylian Mbappe of France kisses the World Cup trophy during a ceremony to celebrate France's victory in the FIFA 2018 World Cup

The World Cup trophy was shown off as well, at the stadium where France first won it in 1998.

The France starting line-up was the same as that in Thursday's 0-0 draw with Germany in Munich, meaning the only change from the World Cup final was in goal, with Alphonse Areola replacing the injured Hugo Lloris.

The teams were greeted by an enormous banner that read 'world champions' and covered the entirety of the pitch, before a spine-tingling version of the French national anthem.

That added to the sense of occasion, and Didier Deschamps' side then set out with an intensity and an urgency almost unlike anything seen in Russia.

Mbappe forced a good save from Netherlands goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen inside 50 seconds, and his performance here showed why he is tipped as a future Ballon d'Or winner.

The brilliant 19-year-old got the breakthrough in the 14th minute as he turned in a ball driven across the box by Blaise Matuidi for his eighth international goal in 2018.

The hosts looked in complete control against a Dutch side rebuilding under Ronald Koeman after failing to qualify for Euro 2016 or this year's World Cup.

It took the visitors 66 minutes to seriously threaten, as Georginio Wijnaldum found himself in behind the defence only to drag his shot wide.

But the Dutch were level just a minute after that, Kenny Tete delivering a low cross from the right for Babel -- unmissable with his hair dyed red - to convert.

Giroud got the winner though, his 32nd for his country seeing him move one clear of Zinedine Zidane's tally in a France shirt.

After their draw in Germany, France are firmly in control in the three-team Group 1 of League A in the Nations League, with the group winners going through to a four-team final tournament next June.

But for them the evening was always about the post-game festivities first and foremost.

 

DENMARK 2-0 WALES

Christian Eriksen scored twice in a 2-0 victory over Wales in the Nations League on Sunday as Denmark's first-team players returned after boycotting a midweek friendly over a contract dispute.

The Tottenham midfielder put the Danes ahead with just over half an hour gone in Aarhus. Eriksen then added a second on 63 minutes from the penalty spot after Ethan Ampadu handled.

Age Hareide's Denmark go top of a group that also includes the Republic of Ireland, who were routed 4-1 by Wales in their opening game on Thursday.

 

Denmark's Christian Eriksen celebrates scoring against Wales
Denmark's Christian Eriksen celebrates scoring against Wales

Danish preparations were hit by a standoff between their players' union and the country's football association (DBU) over commercial rights.

The issue led to Denmark fielding a side comprised of lower-league and futsal players in Wednesday's 3-0 loss to Slovakia, but both parties reached a one-match truce to ensure a full-strength squad would face Wales.

"I think no matter how the week developed I think this is what we wanted," said Eriksen, with both the players and DBU hoping to reach a new agreement ahead of next month's game with Ireland.

"We wanted to play some football, to win and get a good start in this competition. It was a very good start and a very good feeling to finish a weird week." Ryan Giggs' men suffered a hitch of their own when a technical problem with their plane severely delayed their arrival in Denmark, and forced the cancellation of a pre-match press conference.

"It's disappointing to lose. We obviously wanted to win the game but I think we have to look at the positives," said Gareth Bale.

"I think we stayed in there, we fought hard. It's all new to us, we're still working on things so it's a process at the same time as getting results and wanting to perform well." Thomas Delaney almost produced a sensational opening Danish goal midway through the first half when the Borussia Dortmund midfielder's superb volley from a corner whistled fractionally wide of the post.

Bale, on target in the win over the Irish in Cardiff, then drove just beyond Kasper Schmeichel's left-hand post after the Real Madrid star was given space to run at centre-back Simon Kjaer.

Eriksen broke the deadlock with a well-taken effort on 32 minutes, picking up a pass from Henrik Dalsgaard and taking a touch to set himself before stroking low beyond the outstretched arm of Wayne Hennessey.

The Crystal Palace goalkeeper pulled off a marvellous flying stop to deny Pione Sisto soon after, launching himself to his left to claw behind a vicious half-volley.

Connor Roberts and Aaron Ramsey saw efforts blocked in the Danish area after the ball pinged off several players, while Martin Braithwaite dragged an effort wide after evading a host of Welsh challenges.

Eriksen effectively ended Wales' hopes of earning anything from their trip to Scandinavia when he blasted home from the spot after Ampadu handled Viktor Fischer's cross.

A deflected Bale strike nearly gave the visitors a lifeline in the closing stages but a scrambling Schmeichel turned behind, with only a reflex save from Hennessey preventing Delaney from increasing the damage for Denmark.

 

 

GERMANY 2-1 PERU

Nico Schulz enjoyed a dream international debut on Sunday, as the Hoffenheim defender scored a late winner in front of his home crowd to give Germany a hard-fought 2-1 friendly win over Peru in Sinsheim.

"I am very happy for Nico, he put in a very engaged performance today," coach Joachim Loew told RTL. "He made a very good impression on me in training." Germany had prioritised defensive stability in their 0-0 draw with France three days earlier, but they were out to score goals in Sinsheim, and forced several chances in the opening 20 minutes.

Marco Reus twice came close, while Matthias Ginter's header forced a smart save from Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

"We had more chances and were more ambitious going forward today than we were against France," Reus said. "With a bit more luck and bit more concentration I would have converted one of those chances."

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Julian Brandt levelled the scores with a delicate chip over Gallese. Timo Werner appeared to fire Germany in front ten minutes later, but was correctly called back for offside.

Both Werner and Ilkay Gundogan forced further saves from Gallese before half-time, while tested ter Stegen at the other end.

Peru looked the more dangerous side in the second half, and ter Stegen was called into action again before the hour mark, scrambling across goal to keep out Pedro Aquino's header.

Nils Petersen could have won it for Germany 15 minutes from time, skewing a volley wide of the post, and Julian Draxler sent the ball flying over the bar several minutes later.

The home side finally forced the issue in the 85th minute, as Schulz pounced on a loose ball in the final third and squeezed his shot underneath Gallese.

"I haven't watched the goal back yet, but it was lucky," Schulz told RTL. "I don't think it would have gone in in any other stadium."



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