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MACAU DAILY TIMES 澳門每日時報Kylian Mbappé has had a tough match. It might not stop France from winning the title

Kylian Mbappe of France reacts after an injury during a quarter-final match between Portugal and France at the 2024 European Championship in Hamburg, Germany, July 5

Hand has a broken nose which requires him to wear a face mask that limits his vision. He is struggling with fitness issues stemming from the end of the club season. He has scored just one goal — from the penalty spot.

The European Championship is not exactly going according to plan for Kylian Mbappé and he knows it.

“These are the whims of the footballer,” said the France captain after his latest sub-par performance at Euro 2024.

It doesn’t really matter to him, as long as he holds the Henri Delaunay Cup aloft in Berlin on July 14.

Mbappe was so tired and shaken up by a few blows to his protective mask that he asked to leave the field during half-time of extra time against Portugal in the quarter-final in Hamburg on Friday.

That meant he had to concede a penalty in the approaching shootout, which France won 5-3 thanks to Joao Felix’s miss, but Mbappé was unable to continue.

France coach Didier Deschamps confirmed that his captain wanted to be replaced, in the interests of the team.

“He is always very honest with me and the team. If he feels he doesn’t have the capacity to accelerate, then we can’t take the risk, even against a player like Kylian,” Deschamps said.

“With everything that’s happened to him — the problems he’s had, the trauma to his nose — he’s coping. He’s not in top form. He was feeling very tired indeed.”

Mbappé admitted before the match against Portugal that he was not in top form and that he needed “good preparation to be 100%.” That will happen at Real Madrid, where he joined after his contract with Paris Saint-Germain expired.

He was also taken aback by the fact that he broke his nose in France’s opening group match at Euro 2024. His lack of distance vision meant he was unable to play his game properly.

Perhaps his best performances to date came at press conferences in France, where he loudly urged the French to vote in early elections and warned of the dangers of the far right coming to power.

On the pitch, Mbappé is part of a France team that goes into Tuesday’s semi-final against Spain having scored three goals this tournament: two own goals and his penalty against Austria. No French player has scored from open play so far.

Like Greece in 2004, France hopes to reach the final, largely on the strength of its mean defense and team structure. However, the talent in this French squad is far greater than what Greece had at its disposal 20 years ago.

“In the dressing room, we didn’t think about the fact that we hadn’t scored a goal in the game,” said Mbappé, who scored a hat-trick in the 2022 World Cup final. “But yes, we will look into the issue (of France’s lack of efficiency in attack), while maintaining this defensive solidity.

“I only scored one goal,” he added, “but we are in the semi-finals and I am very happy.”

Mbappé also didn’t enjoy watching the penalty shootout from a distance.

“It’s worse than shooting,” he said, laughing. STEVE DOUGLAS, HAMBURG, MDT/AP

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