Published: 08:56, June 18, 2024
France battle past Austria but Mbappe suffers facial injury
By Reuters
Austria's midfielder #20 Konrad Laimer fights for the ball with France's midfielder #14 Adrien Rabiot during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group D football match between Austria and France at the Duesseldorf Arena in Duesseldorf on June 17, 2024. (PHOTO / AFP)

DUESSELDORF, Germany - France delivered a 100th victory for manager Didier Deschamps as they edged a tenacious Austria side 1-0 in their opening Group D match at Euro 2024 but it came at a cost as talisman Kylian Mbappe suffered a suspected broken nose on Monday.

It was by no means a vintage performance and France required an own goal by Austria defender Max Wober shortly before halftime to secure the three points that put them level with the Netherlands who they face next on Friday.

However, three years after bowing out of Euro 2020 in the last 16 to Switzerland on penalties, France offered enough evidence to suggest they will be go much deeper in Germany with returning midfielder N'Golo Kante magnificent.

It proved a decidedly mixed night for captain Mbappe though as he was left still searching for his first goal in a European Championship after some glaring misses and to add insult to injury then went off with blood oozing from his nose before leaving the stadium in an ambulance to undergo X-rays

It proved a decidedly mixed night for captain Mbappe though as he was left still searching for his first goal in a European Championship after some glaring misses and to add insult to injury then went off with blood oozing from his nose before leaving the stadium in an ambulance to undergo X-rays.

"He's got a really bad nose," said Deschamps. "We'll have to wait and see, the medical staff are dealing with it. We'll have to see what's going to be done and then how long it will take. It's very bad news for us tonight.

"Obviously, the French team with or without him, this is not the same thing. I hope he can be there," added Deschamps, whose record now stands at 100 wins, 30 draws and 24 losses in his near 12 years at the helm.

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In his 80th game for Les Bleus Mbappe's wing wizardry broke Austria's resistance in the 38th minute when he dribbled past three defenders and cut back a cross the unfortunate Wober could only head past his own goalkeeper Patrick Pentz.

Kylian Mbappe of France receives a treatment after suffering an injury during a Group D match between Austria and France at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Duesseldorf, Germany, on June 17, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

But Mbappe wasted an early chance and a glorious opportunity for his laboring side in the 54th, surprising everyone in the stadium as he accelerated clean through on goal, picked his spot but guided his shot wide, responding with a wry smile.

Mbappe, whose missed penalty in the shootout against Switzerland three years ago condemned his side to a shock defeat, then collided with the shoulder of Kevin Danso as he tried to meet a cross into the Austria box late on.

He required treatment and was then booked for laying down again on the turf immediately after returning to the pitch before being substituted in a chaotic ending to a match that was never pretty, but always compelling.

Austria's Christoph Baumgartner colides with France goalkeeper Mike Maignan during a Group D match between Austria and France at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Duesseldorf, Germany, on June 17, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

Austria press

Austria coach Ralf Rangnick had promised his in-form side, with one defeat in their last 16 matches, would go toe-to-toe with France and they were as good as his word.

Their relentless high-pressing and tackling never wavered and with their red-clad fans roaring them on they were in the contest until the end of a lengthy period of stoppage time.

"All in all the French earned the win, but that we were chasing the equalizer throughout speaks for the performance of our team," Rangnick said.

N'Golo Kante of France (right) challenges for the ball with Austria's Marko Arnautovic during a Group D match between Austria and France at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Duesseldorf, Germany, on June 17, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

Austria could even have taken the lead shortly before France scored when captain Marcel Sabitzer cleverly touched a Michael Gregoritsch cross into the path of Christoph Baumgartner whose shot was deflected wide by France keeper Mike Maignan.

The French were more dynamic after the interval with Pentz saving well from Marcus Thuram but too often the pre-tournament favorites were wasteful when in promising positions.

While Mbappe's injury cast a shadow over the victory, a huge bonus for France was the sight of 2018 World Cup winner Kante, a surprise pick for the squad after a two-year absence, producing a majestic display at the heart of midfield.

READ MORE: France eye strong start against Austria in pursuit of overdue Euros title

Kylian Mbappe of France fails to score during a Group D match between Austria and France at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Duesseldorf, Germany, on June 17, 2024. (PHOTO / AP)

For all their graft and possession Austria struggled to create many clear chances and more often than not it was man-of-the-match Kante who blocked their path.

"It starts well. Everything was not perfect but we have the result we wanted. There are solid foundations. We have to be more efficient," he said.

"It makes me happy to be back. Things have changed but it feels good to get back into this jersey."