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Kylian Mbappe sends defending champions to round of 16

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“The first objective has been achieved,” French coach Didier Deschamps said of their qualification in a post-match TV interview. “This group is strong, solid and wants to achieve great things.”

Kylian Mbappe capped an exhilarating individual performance with two second-half goals to make France the first team champions of the World Cup round of 16 as they beat Denmark 2-1 in their Group D clash at Stadium 974 on Saturday, November 26.

France top the group with six points, three ahead of Australia, who beat Tunisia 1-0 earlier in the day, with the Danes and Tunisians one point apiece.

France take on Tunisia and Denmark meet Socceroos in the final round on Wednesday, with the Danes needing a win to qualify.

“The first objective has been achieved,” French coach Didier Deschamps said of their qualification in a post-match TV interview. “This group is strong, solid and wants to achieve great things.”

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Having lost twice to Denmark in the recent Nations League campaign, the French have started cautiously. But it wasn’t long before they realized there were opportunities to be had as they faced the Danish full-backs.

Ousmane Dembele tormented Joakim Maehle and a wave of excitement swept through the stadium, which is made up of 974 recycled shipping containers, each time Mbappe went one-on-one with Rasmus Kristensen on the other flank .

The first half saw France take advantage of the better chances as Adrien Rabiot went close with a header and Denmark were forced into a number of last resort blocks, but the Danes went close with a shot from Andreas Cornelius that flew just wide.

Their defensive resilience didn’t last and Mbappe put the French ahead in the 61st minute, capping a superb high-speed French counter with a bouncing first time from Theo Hernandez’s clever withdrawal.

Still in danger from set pieces, Andreas Christensen leveled the Danes seven minutes later, slipping behind the defense and bending down to head home.

Neither team seemed happy with a draw and Rabiot fired a spectacular volley in the 80th minute, and a minute later Danish substitute Martin Braithwaite fired his first shot just wide of the near post.

The match looked set to end in a stalemate until Mbappe popped up in the 86th minute at the far post to cushion a close-range cross from Antoine Griezmann to restore the lead and send the French fans away on the move in rapture.

Denmark threw everything forward in search of a second equaliser, leaving acres of space at the back, but their late attacks lacked precision and the French held on for the win which saw them through .

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