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France hoping captain Kylian can deliver against Spain in Euro 2024 semi

By AFP - Jul 08,2024 - Last updated at Jul 11,2024

France’s forward #10 Kylian Mbappe reacts next to his teammate France’s midfielder #14 Adrien Rabiot (right) during a MD-1 training session at the Munich Football Arena in Munich, southern Germany, on Monday (AFP photo)

MUNICH, Germany — France goes into Tuesday’s Euro 2024 semifinal showdown against Spain hoping Kylian Mbappe can finally produce a performance worthy of his superstar status at a tournament in which he has struggled to find form and fitness.

The match in Munich is a mouthwatering prospect and a huge occasion in particular for Mbappe, in his first major tournament captaining his country and just before he starts a new chapter in his career at Real Madrid.

At 25, and having just completed his dream move to the Champions League winners, Mbappe should be in the prime of his footballing life.

But the man who won the World Cup as a teenager and scored an incredible hat-trick in the 2022 final in Qatar, has not been able to play anywhere near his best at the European Championship.

Mbappe joined up with the France squad after a difficult final campaign at Paris Saint-Germain which was marred by a slightly messy divorce from the club as his playing time was reduced.

Already floundering to some extent physically, lacking his usual explosive edge, a broken nose in Les Bleus’ opening game at the tournament against Austria has further diminished him.

He has scored just once, from a penalty, at the Euros and it may be no exaggeration to say his performance in Friday’s quarter-final against Portugal in Hamburg was the worst of his career in such a big game.

Mbappe ended up being substituted halfway through extra time — he later admitted he was simply exhausted — and so watched from the sidelines as his teammates won on penalties.

“He might not have been here at all, so we need to look at it in a positive light,” coach Didier Deschamps told broadcaster TF1 on Sunday.

“Kylian is here, even if he is not at 100 per cent, and I know that has an impact on the opposition who are forced to adapt to him.”

Whether Spain is too worried remains to be seen, with Mbappe clearly inhibited by the protective mask he has to wear over his injured nose.

There is little prospect of him challenging for a header, and he has indicated that his field of vision is reduced by the mask.

His poor form, along with that of vice-captain Antoine Griezmann, helps explain why France has scored just three goals in five games on their run to the semifinal — one being Mbappe’s penalty against Poland and the other two coming via own goals.


‘When he talks, 

we listen’ 


However, Mbappe’s teammates insist they are not worried about their captain’s performances.

“I don’t think he is going through a bad period. He had a great season. If he is not scoring goals we need to help him. The competition is not over. Apart from his little nose, he is fine,” said Randal Kolo Muani, who played with Mbappe at PSG in the last campaign, on Sunday.

Mbappe is France’s third-top scorer of all time with 48 goals in 83 appearances, but he has just two in his last nine caps.

In the meantime, he has settled into the role of captain which he was given after Hugo Lloris retired in the wake of the 2022 World Cup.

On Friday, after being substituted, television cameras caught Mbappe giving a rousing speech to his teammates just before the penalty shoot-out against Portugal.

“Kylian is the player who went through one-on-one three times in a World Cup final,” said midfielder Youssouf Fofana in reference to his hat-trick against Argentina in Doha.

“So when he talks about penalties before a shoot-out, we listen to him.”

Mbappe is also very much at ease in front of the media, and has notably used the platform given to him in pre-game press conferences to talk politics, making clear his opposition to the far-right National Rally in relation to the French parliamentary elections

He is a natural leader, but it is goals that this shot-shy France team want more than anything from him.

Mbappe will not come directly up against one of his future club colleagues against Spain, with right-back Dani Carvajal suspended after his sending-off against Germany in the quarter-finals.

Whoever replaces Carvajal, Mbappe will hope to come out on top and lead France to a third final in the last four major tournaments.

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