2022 World Cup Round of 16: Kylian Mbappe stars again, Olivier Giroud breaks record; France knocks out Poland

France Poland Kylian Mbappe Olivier Giroud World Cup
France’s Olivier Giroud celebrates with France’s Kylian Mbappe, after scoring the opening goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between France and Poland, at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

If one was to speculate just how high Kylian Mbappe’s ceiling could be — add a few more hundred feet and restart your conversation then. 

The French talisman had a hand in all three of France’s goals in a 3-1 victory over Poland in the Round of 16 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Sunday, scoring twice and adding an assist to punch Les Bleus’ ticket to the quarterfinals.

At his second World Cup, the 23-year-old now has five goals and two assists in Qatar.

His breathtaking play headlined a showing that also featured Olivier Giroud breaking his country’s goal-scoring record to continue the French cruise in the Middle East as it looks to become the first country to repeat as World Cup champions since 1962. 

Giroud provided the opener in the 44th minute off an assist from Mbappe, recording his 52nd international goal for France to the legendary Thierry Henry. 

Mbappe proceeded to take over in the second half, cannoning France’s second home in the 74th minute before an awe-inspiring curl from the left of the box in the first minute of stoppage time.

Robert Lewandowski, the Polish legend who has likely played his last game at a World Cup, converted a penalty in the ninth minute of second-half stoppage time to provide the smallest of consolation prizes.

Despite Poland squeaking in by the skin of its teeth into the knockout stage, there was zero indication that it would be a pushover for the defending champions. 

In fact, the Red Whites worked an incredible opportunity to grab a shocking opener in the 38th minute as Bartosz Bereszynski’s cutback pass came to the feet of Piotr Zielinski. From close range, he cannoned a shot that French keeper Hugo Lloris somehow managed to save with his knee.

The rebound came right back to Zielinski, whose second opportunity was blocked by defender Dayot Upamecano but the danger wasn’t done. Jakub Kominski got the rebound and sent another shot toward goal that was cleared off the line by Raphael Varane.

The Poles were made to feel the full impact of that missed opportunity just six minutes later when France went in front through Giroud, who was played in by a through-ball from Mbappe and finished on the turn to give Les Bleus all the momentum at the break.

Mbappe put it away in the 75th minute on a lightning counter-attack when he was found all alone at the top of the box. He delayed for a moment, seemingly inviting some Polish defensive pressure as they scrambled back in desperation, but it was far too late. The 23-year-old superstar — almost in free-kick fashion — took a step and cannoned a knuckling effort into the top-left corner of the goal.

His show-stopping second goal of the match in the 91st minute gave the 23-year-old nine career World Cup goals. It’s just seven shy of the all-time record held by Germany’s Miroslav Klose. 

Only 13 players in the competition’s history have scored more goals than the Frenchman. 

For Poland, it was a short stay in the knockout round — a stage of the competition it tasted for the first time since 1986.

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