France finish second in Euros group after 1-1 draw with Poland

Kylian Mbappe scored a penalty on his return after breaking his nose but Robert Lewandowski’s reply meant France and Poland drew 1-1 in their final group game at Euro 2024 on Tuesday.

Kylian Mbappe scored a penalty on his return after breaking his nose but Robert Lewandowski’s reply meant France and Poland drew 1-1 in their final group game at Euro 2024 on Tuesday.

The result in Dortmund, combined with Austria’s 3-2 victory over the Netherlands at the same time, saw France finish second in Group D with one win and two draws.

France will now head to Duesseldorf for a last-16 tie next Monday against the runners-up in Group E, which could be Belgium, Romania, Slovakia or Ukraine.

“We have to appreciate what we did. We’re qualified. We know when we’re playing next (July 1), even if we don’t know against who exactly,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.

“We’ve achieved our first objective. Even if we don’t have the spot we were aiming for because we are second. A new competition is about to start.”

Wearing a mask to protect his injured nose, Mbappe rolled in a spot-kick to put France ahead early in the second half after Ousmane Dembele was brought down.

It was Mbappe’s first ever goal at a European Championship, and the first scored by a France player at this year’s tournament — their only prior goal came when Austria’s Maximilian Woeber put into his own net.

Yet Lewandowski, Poland’s all-time top scorer who was himself starting for the first time at Euro 2024 after a thigh injury, equalised from a penalty at the other end 11 minutes from time.

His first kick was saved by Mike Maignan, but Lewandowski was allowed a retake as the France goalkeeper came off his line before the ball had been struck.

France’s result is all the more significant as they are now on the same side of the draw as Portugal, Spain and Germany, which they would have avoided by topping the group.

Often imprecise and lacking in intensity here, the 2022 World Cup runners-up will certainly need to improve on this performance, and their previous group outings, if they are to win the competition.

Poland had already been eliminated before this game, becoming the first team to go out after losing their opening two matches. This result at least allowed Michal Probierz’s side to rescue some pride.

“It is a pity that we didn’t manage to qualify from our group,” said Probierz. “We competed as equals against the runners-up of the last World Cup.”

It was not just the return of the masked Mbappe — who missed France’s 0-0 draw with the Netherlands — that was notable when the line-ups were announced, with Antoine Griezmann unusually left out of the starting XI.

Instead Paris Saint-Germain winger Bradley Barcola got his first start for his country.

Lewandowski, returning to the stadium where he made his name with Borussia Dortmund a decade ago, had one big chance in the first half, heading wide from Piotr Zielinski’s cross.

Mbappe struggled to make his mark in the opening period, occasionally stopping to adjust his mask, and removing it entirely during a drinks break in sweltering conditions.

Theo Hernandez was the first France player to test Lukasz Skorupski, starting in goal instead of Wojciech Szczesny who is set to retire from the Poland team soon after the Euros.

Meanwhile Mbappe started to come to life towards the end of the opening half.

On two separate occasions he quickly exchanged passes with Barcola on the left side of the box before having a shot saved.

Skorupski then dived to his left to keep out a trademark Mbappe curler just after the restart, but there was nothing he could do about the penalty which broke the deadlock on 56 minutes.

Dembele’s end product had been almost non-existent until he produced a burst of pace on the right and was chopped down by Jakub Kiwior.

Italian referee Marco Guida immediately pointed to the spot, and Mbappe rolled in his kick before removing his mask to celebrate.

Yet Poland did not lie down, and won a penalty of their own when substitute Karol Swiderski was tripped by Dayot Upamecano.

The referee initially waved play on, before changing his mind and pointing to the spot after being coaxed across to the VAR monitor.

Maignan saved Lewandowski’s first attempt after a stuttering run-up, but the Barcelona striker made no mistake at the second time of asking.

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