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Mbappe’s injury leaves France preparing for Plan B for Euro 2024

France possess fearsome strength in depth but remain hugely dependent on Kylian Mbappe for inspiration and now face the prospect of being without their injured superstar for at least their next Euro 2024 match against the Netherlands on Friday.

Captain Mbappe is recovering from a broken nose suffered during Monday’s 1-0 win over Austria in Dusseldorf in their opening match at the tournament.

Real Madrid’s new signing, who forced Maximilian Woeber’s own goal to decide the match, was seriously injured in a collision with Austrian defender Kevin Danso and had to be replaced by Olivier Giroud.

The French Football Federation later said Mbappe did not need surgery, but admitted he would have to wear a mask before returning to action.

In any case, the lack of time between matches means that the match against the Dutch team in Leipzig will come too early for the 25-year-old.

And France coach Didier Deschamps will be hoping his team can get a positive result, which could seal their place in the last 16, meaning Mbappe could also sit out the final Group D match against Poland without any problems.

But can Les Bleus beat a strong Dutch team without perhaps the most lethal striker in the world?

“Of course he is an important player, the captain, a leader. That will have an impact, but we have an exceptional team,” midfielder Adrien Rabiot said on Wednesday.

“I’m not going to complain, considering the guys we have on the bench. We have more than enough options to replace Kylian. I have full confidence in the guys on the bench and the quality we have.”

Mbappé is his country’s third all-time top scorer with 47 goals from 80 caps, behind only Giroud and Thierry Henry.

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He has scored just once in France’s last six games, and that was in a pre-tournament friendly against Luxembourg.

However, he had a major influence on their performances at the last World Cup, scoring eight goals – half of the team’s total – including an astonishing hat-trick in the final against Argentina.

France met the Netherlands twice in qualifying for Euro 2024, and Mbappé scored a goal each time, in a 4-0 win in Paris and in a 2-1 win in Amsterdam.

Above all, it is worth considering how France have fared in recent matches without the player who has just ended a prolific seven-year spell at Paris Saint-Germain.

Deschamps’ team lost 2-1 in a friendly match in Germany last September when Mbappé remained on the bench. They were also working to a 0–0 draw against Canada in their final pre-tournament friendly match when he only appeared as a late substitute.

Their goal threat is obviously no longer the same without Mbappé, even though he has never scored at the European Championship.

At the last European Championship three years ago, Mbappe failed to find the net and missed the crucial penalty in a last-16 defeat on penalties against Switzerland.

He squandered one golden opportunity against Austria when he was clean through and only had to beat the goalkeeper.

The obvious option for Deschamps when it comes to replacing Mbappe would be to start Giroud, even though the big striker is a completely different player.

Giroud, who moves to MLS after the tournament, is now 37 and is also dealing with a minor groin injury.

He ended up playing a key role in Qatar, and in similar circumstances Karim Benzema would have been ahead of him, but had to retire injured at the last minute.

“My mentality is always the same: bring something to the team if the coach gives me the chance,” Giroud said after the match against Austria.

“Everyone knows that I think of the collective before I think of myself.”

Another option for Deschamps is to move Marcus Thuram from the left wing to a central role.

However, Thuram has only scored twice for his country in twenty international matches, including one against Gibraltar.

Then there is Randal Kolo Muani, but he seems to have little confidence after a difficult season in the shadow of Mbappé at PSG.

One thing is certain: France’s performance against Austria – with the returning N’Golo Kante doing a great job of shielding an impressive defense – indicated that they at least look solid enough to keep most opponents out as they await the return of Mbappe.

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