France blew the chance to finish first in their group despite Kylian Mbappe scoring his maiden European Championship goal in a 1-1 draw with Poland on Tuesday, as Austria won a thriller against the Netherlands to snatch top spot.
Didier Deschamps’ France failed to top their group at a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2012 after being made to pay for a series of missed chances.
“We’ve achieved our first objective,” said Deschamps. “Even if we don’t have the spot we were aiming for because we are second. A new competition is about to start.”
Austria, who lost their opening game to France, grabbed a 3-2 victory over the Dutch to wrap up a last-16 berth and relegate their already-qualified opponents to third place in Group D.
France dominated for long periods against Poland but have still only scored twice in Germany - an own goal by Austria’s Maximilian Woeber and Mbappe’s penalty.
“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.
Les Bleus will face the runners-up from Group E, in which Belgium, Ukraine, Romania and Slovakia all have three points, in the last 16. Poland goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski, playing in place of Wojciech Szczesny, made two fine stops to deny Mbappe - playing in a mask after breaking his nose against Austria - in the opening period.
Mbappe finally broke his Euros duck in the 56th minute, though, as he slotted in a penalty after Ousmane Dembele was felled by an ill-advised challenge from Jakub Kiwior just inside the box.
But Poland were awarded a spot-kick themselves with 13 minutes remaining for a foul on Karol Swiderski.
Robert Lewandowski’s weak initial effort was comfortably saved by Mike Maignan, but the France goalkeeper had strayed off his line and the Poland talisman dispatched his second attempt.
Deschamps also defended his decision to drop Antoine Griezmann from the starting line-up, saying it was not a reflection of the Atletico Madrid player’s performances in previous matches. “It was just a choice I made. That’s all. There is no need to interpret anything,” he said after handing young winger Bradley Barcola his first international start instead. “I am not adapting to the opposition but I do try to put out the most dangerous team to beat who we are up against. We wanted to have pace in attack up against the big players in the Poland side.”
Austria power through
Dutch fans turned Berlin orange as they continued to light up the tournament, but it was the Austrians in full voice early on as their team were rewarded for an enterprising start when Donyell Malen inadvertently fired into his own net. Malen’s day took another turn for the worse when he dragged a poor shot wide when clean through on goal inside the area.
But the Netherlands drew level less than two minutes after the restart, as Austria midfielder Florian Grillitsch lost the ball in midfield before Cody Gakpo cut inside and finished off a rapid counter-attack. Just as the Oranje started to get on top, Austria reclaimed the lead as Romano Schmid’s header found the net via a deflection off Stefan de Vrij on the line. Memphis Depay struck with an excellent touch and volley to equalise again after a good header down by substitute Wout Weghorst.
But one of the games of the tournament was not done yet and Marcel Sabitzer hammered home to put Austria in front for the third time in the 81st minute.
Ralf Rangnick’s men now have a match against either Turkey, the Czech Republic or Georgia to look forward to as they bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
“We started weakly...we were too weak in the duels, I have no explanation for that at the moment,” Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk told Dutch television.
“We talked about it at half-time, (playing like that) is not possible, we know that, it has to be much better. We are all responsible for this - there is not one or two guilty people... if we want to achieve anything in this tournament, something has to change.”
“The France match went reasonably well, taking into account the outcome, we played rather well as a team (but) today the performance was appalling,” Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman said.
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