France's injuries would have hobbled lesser teams at World Cup | Opinion




DOHA, Qatar - France just isn't fair.

The defending champions should be limping through the World Cup, having lost Paul Pogba (knee) and N'golo Kante (hamstring) before the tournament and Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema (thigh) after arriving in Qatar. Yet Les Bleus keep right on rolling, the absences barely even noticeable.

Of course, it helps to have a player like Kylian Mbappe, who scored both goals for France in the 2-1 victory over Denmark on Saturday night that made Les Bleus the first team to secure a spot in the knockout rounds.

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Anton Griezmann delivered a cross from the edge of the box in the 86th to Mbappe, who directed it past Kasper Schmeichel with his thigh. His previous goal, in the 61st, was a close-range strike off a give and go with Theo Hernandez, perfectly placed beyond Schmeichel's outstretched hands.

Denmark's Andreas Christensen had briefly made a game of it, scoring on a header in the 68th following a corner kick. But France, and Mbappe, were simply too good.

Already qualified for the round of 16, France is in good shape to win Group D. It has six points after two games, and no one else in the group has more than 3. Les Bleus finish Wednesday against Tunisia, which has yet to score in Qatar.

France celebrates after a goal by Kylian Mbappe against Denmark at the World Cup in Doha, Qatar on Nov.
France celebrates after a goal by Kylian Mbappe against Denmark at the World Cup in Doha, Qatar on Nov.  

Les Bleus won its first game, over Australia, 4-1, and this easily could have had a similar scoreline. Would have, too, if they were facing any other goalkeeper besides Schmeichel. The Dane was brilliant, his four saves including a kick save on a shot by Anton Griezmann in the first half.

Schmeichel also tipped a shot by Mbappe up and back over the crossbar in the 56th and snagged another shot by Mbappe in the closing minutes of the game.

Mbappe was named Man of the Match - duh! - but what should scare the rest of the World Cup is that France is not a one-man team, as their ability to withstand the injuries shows. No team has repeated as World Cup champ since Brazil in 1962, but France sure looks as if it's got the potential to do it.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: France's hopes of World Cup repeat stay intact despite key injuries

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