France face biggest group stage challenge against a solid Denmark

© Adrian Dennis, AFP

France and Denmark go into their match on Saturday as Group D’s clear favourites for winners and runners-up, respectively. Les Bleus will be full of confidence after smashing Australia 4-1 in their opening match just after Denmark drew against Tunisia – but France will have little cause for complacency after Denmark’s sparkling run over the past year and a half.

Many World Cup trophy-holders seem cursed – as evidenced by France’s 2002 debacle after their celebrated victory in 1998. But Les Bleus gave a clear sign they are bucking the trend with a formidable performance against Australia on Tuesday. It was a performance worthy of champions – and it does not augur well for their Danish opponents on Saturday.

Yet the star of the show – the player on whom France will depend more than anybody else – was Kylian Mbappé. The wunderkind who took the footballing world by storm at the 2018 World Cup has only accentuated his gifts alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar at PSG. Mbappé showcased his lacerating pace and sharp creativity against the Aussies – a frequent menace down the left flank, as well as pivoting to the centre with deft positional interchanges with his midfield colleagues.

Yet Deschamps will have to adapt against Denmark, when the gulf in quality will no longer be there.

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