French striker Olivier Giroud became the all-time leading goalscorer for Les Bleus, as he surpassed the mark of Thierry Henry in the defending champions’ 3-1 victory over Poland.
And while history belonged to Giroud, with his 52nd goal for the national side, it was youngster Kylian Mbappe who was the star for France with a brilliant brace as they marched into the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals.
Poland manager Czesaw Michniewicz knew exactly what type of player had just destroyed his side as he heaped praise on the 23-year-old Frenchman.
“He hurt us today but I am cheering for him because he is a real star,” Michniewicz said.
“I’m talking about [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Robert] Lewandowski. If someone is going to take over, I think Mbappe will be the player to be the best one [for] many years.”
France, who will face either Senegal or England for a spot in the last four, had to dig deep but scored on the stroke of half-time as Giroud calmly finished past Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Mbappe drew the defence to him and slid the ball through into the path of Giroud, who grabbed the inch of space he needed to clip the ball past Szczesny and net his third goal of the tournament.
The 36-year-old Giroud, who did not score a goal in Russia four years ago, had drawn level with Henry on 51 goals after netting a double in the defending champions’ 4-1 win over the Socceroos in their opening Group D game.
The goal sent France to half-time with a 1-0 lead but Poland had chances and at one stage saw three consecutive shots blocked or cleared off the French line as Hugo Lloris initially made a fine reflex save to deny Piotr Zielenski.
Poland’s poise was close to being rewarded in the 38th minute when the on-rushing Zielinski’s shot was parried by Lloris. It then came back into the midfielder’s path but his second attempt was deflected by Theo Hernandez.
Jakub Kaminski followed, only for his shot to be saved close to the goal-line by Raphael Varane.
Poland were in the match until Mbappe’s 74th-minute and stoppage-time screamers sealed Poland’s fate and took the 23-year-old winger to the top of the race for the Golden Boot with five goals scored.
Mbappe rattled home his two efforts with power and precision and Szczesny could do little about them.
The first was a rising shot that went under the bar before he curled another jaw-dropping shot into the top corner one minute into injury time.
They were his fourth and fifth goals in Qatar, and Mbappe became the first player to score nine World Cup goals before his 24th birthday, having netted as many as Argentina’s 35-year-old Messi.
If it was perhaps thought that Mbappe would be focused on his own individual accolades that thought was banished post match, as he declared his goal.
“The only objective for me is to win the World Cup,” Mbappe said.
“The only thing I dream is this. I came here to win this World Cup. I didn’t come here to win the Golden Ball or Golden Boot.
“If I win it of course I’m going to be happy, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to win and I’m here to help the French national team.”
Poland got a consolation goal with the last kick of the game as a handball by Dayot Upamecano gave Robert Lewandowski a penalty that was first saved by Lloris before being retaken and scored.