World Cup recap, Day 7: France are first through to Round of 16
On day seven of the World Cup in Qatar, France has become the first country to earn their spot in the knockout stages after beating Denmark 2-1 on Saturday in a game that saw Kylian Mbappe put two goals away for the French.
With their victory over Denmark, world champions France now have six points at the top of Group D and are the first team to be guaranteed a place in the Round of 16.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez earned Argentina a 2-0 win over Mexico and kept their World Cup dreams alive, while the Mexicans must now beat Saudi Arabia to have any chance of entering the Round of 16.
It was also 2-0 for Poland in their tense match against Saudi Arabia, which saw the Saudis dominate the game for long periods, but the gritty Poles held the backline, and excellent goalkeeping saved them the day.
Australia earned their first World Cup victory in 12 years in a 1-0 win over Tunisia. The Tunisians are still hoping to advance from their group stage but must now beat France to achieve that goal.
Here is a quick guide recapping all you need to know from day seven — Saturday, November 26, 2022 — of the Qatar World Cup 2022.
France vs Denmark
France’s Kylian Mbappe scored two goals and put the defending champions into the knockout stage of the World Cup with their 2-1 win over Denmark in a game that early on seemed as if it could end in a deadlock.
Les Bleus attacked with might from the kickoff, and Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel just about tipped a dangerous header from Adrien Rabiot. Denmark also had their first chance with Andreas Cornelius shooting wide right.
It was France who finally broke through with fine attacking when Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe gave his team the lead in the 61st minute. The French forward swapped passes with Theo Hernandez down the left flank and poked the ball past Schmeichel for the first goal.
But that was quickly cancelled out by Denmark’s Andreas Christensen, who scored an equaliser just seven minutes later.
Not to be outdone, Mbappe then scored the winner in the 86th when he jumped acrobatically to guide in the second after a cross from Antoine Griezmann to make Les Bleus the first team to advance to the round of 16.
Mbappe scored four goals when France won the World Cup four years ago, including one in the final. He now has 31 goals for France, moving him one ahead of Just Fontaine — the all-time leading scorer at a single World Cup with 13 goals at the 1958 tournament.
“I’m very happy with the way my players have responded,” France Coach Didier Deschamps told broadcasters TF1. “We are sure to be qualified after two games. It brings peace of mind,” he said.
“We have a strong and solid group of players who want to do great things.”
Denmark defender Victor Nelsson said after the match: “Right now I’m very disappointed with the late goal. It is unacceptable to let in a goal so late in the game … We need to win over Australia on Wednesday.”
Argentina vs Mexico
Argentina were aware that another defeat would have sent them out of the tournament on Saturday, and they started poorly against Mexico as they struggled to cope with the pressure the Mexicans unleashed from the first kick of the ball.
That struggle continued at Lusail Stadium until Lionel Messi found the bottom-right corner of the Mexican net from more than 20 metres (66 feet) out in the 64th minute, firing a low shot through a crowd of defenders into the back of the goal.
Messi was almost in tears as he grabbed and shook his jersey in front of Argentina’s celebrating fans, then blew a kiss and looked to the sky. It will go down as one of the most important goals of his career as it has reignited his team’s World Cup chances.
Argentinian fans inside the 89,000-seat Lusail Stadium hugged each other. Some cried. Argentina defender Lisandro Martinez fell to the ground and appeared to bury his face in the turf.
Argentina’s substitute Enzo Fernandez then added a second goal in the 87th minute, ensuring the team has bounced back from their 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia that now ranks as one of the World Cup’s biggest-ever upsets.
Fernandez — who is 21 years of age — also became the youngest player to score at a World Cup for Argentina since Messi himself in 2006.
“It’s a weight off our shoulders,” Messi said after the match. “It gives us joy and peace of mind to start again.”
“We lived with discomfort and kept the defeat in the opening match in our minds,” Messi said. “We were eager to have the chance to turn the situation around and luckily we won,” he said.
“All of our matches are finals now. We can’t mess up.”
Poland vs Saudi Arabia
It looked like Saturday’s Group C match was not going to go Poland’s way, with Saudi Arabia riding on a wave of confidence after their historic defeat of Argentina earlier this week.
Poland were playing before a deafening, overwhelmingly Saudi crowd that was excited, rapturous and raucous, booing and jeering nearly every Polish move.
In a first half dominated by slick Saudi counterattacking and large amounts of gamesmanship from the Gulf side, Poland received three yellow cards in the space of four minutes and were on the wrong end of a VAR penalty decision the Poles will deem harsh.
But it was Piotr Zielinski who opened the scoring for Poland in the 39th minute with a smart finish against the run of play.
Salem Aldawsari had a chance to bring Saudi Arabia back on level terms towards the end of the half, but his penalty kick was superbly saved by Wojciech Szczesny. The Polish keeper then saved a follow-up by Mohammed Alburayk, too.
With just eight minutes left in the game, Polish striker Robert Lewandowski dispossessed Abdulelah Almalki of the ball and slotted home the second of Poland’s 2-0 win.
Saturday’s win mattered. Poland needed at least a draw to stand any real chance of getting to the last 16 for the first time since 1986, and with Argentina left to play, few would fancy their chances.
“I think the older I get, the more emotional I get, and I’m aware that when it comes to the World Cup, it might be my last World Cup actually,” Lewandowski said after the game and what was his 77th international goal.
“The result of the team was most important … There’s another day and we need to get ready for the next match because we don’t know what’s going to happen next. We need to do all we can.”
Saudi Arabia coach Hervé Renard said he was proud of his team’s performance; Saudi Arabia had twice as many shots at goal as Poland did.
“I don’t think a lot of people [thought] Saudi Arabia was able to play this kind of football,” he said. “This is the reason why I’m proud of them,” he said after the match.
Renard referred to the vocal support the Green Falcons received at Education City Stadium, where the enthusiastic Saudi fans turned the game into a home one, and he hopes for more of the same for the final group game against Mexico on November 30 back at Lusail, where his team beat Argentina.
“I hope they won’t give up,” Renard said of the Saudi fans.
“Because when you are fans, you need to support your team when it’s a fantastic day, but you also need to support your team to make the history during the third game.”
Tunisia vs Australia
It was a scrappy start to the match between Tunisia and Australia until the “Socceroos” went ahead when striker Mitchell Duke scored midway through the first half with a glancing header past keeper Aymen Dahmen to give Australia the lead.
Duke’s goal came after he collected a goalkeeper’s pass near the middle of the field and made a quick touch to set Craig Goodwin down the left flank. Duke then sprinted forward to nod Goodwin’s deflected cross into the far corner with his back to the goal.
Duke celebrated scoring Australia’s winning goal by forming a “J” with his fingers in a tribute to his son Jaxson, who was in the stands.
The score quieted the large contingent of Tunisia fans among the crowd of 41,823 inside Al Janoub Stadium and sent the small pockets of Australian supporters dressed in yellow into delirium.
Tunisia had impressed when they held European Championship semi-finalist Denmark to a 0-0 draw in their opener, but only occasionally threatened against Australia until the Aussies sat back and defended towards the end.
Tunisia’s best chance came when skipper Youssef Msakni shot just wide.
It was an emotion-filled day for Australia, whose 1-0 victory over Tunisia was only their third win in 18 World Cup matches.
Tunisia is still seeking to advance from the group stage for the first time in its six World Cup appearances but now needs to beat France.
“This edition of the World Cup has had surprises for everyone. The larger squads have been defeated,” Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri said.
“We still have one more match to go and we’ll play our hearts out.”