Giroud to the rescue for France as world champions make winning return to Paris
Ryan Babel had cancelled out Kylian Mbappe’s opener.
France striker Olivier Giroud ended his 10-match goalless run with the winner as the world champions’ return to Paris for the first time since their summer success in Russia ended in a 2-1 victory over Holland.
Ryan Babel looked to have spoiled the homecoming party in the capital with his first competitive international goal in 13 years to cancel out Kylian Mbappe’s opener in the Nations League clash.
However, with 15 minutes remaining, Chelsea forward Giroud scored the 32nd goal of international career, taking him past Zinedine Zidane with only Thierry Henry, Michel Platini and David Trezeguet ahead of him on France’s all-time list.
It also gave Didier Deschamps’ side the advantage in Group One of League A, following their goalless draw in Germany earlier in the week.
The France coach named the same side which returned from Munich with a point and, with Antoine Griezmann pulling the strings from number 10 position, they dominated against opponents who are rebuilding after failing to qualify for the World Cup.
Mbappe’s early jinking run created an opening on the angle on the right side of the penalty area, but his driven, near-post shot was batted away by Jasper Cillessen.
The breakthrough was not long in coming though as, in the 14th minute, Babel and Daley Blind failed to clear the danger created by a Blaise Matuidi left-wing cross and, when the ball was worked back out to the Juventus midfielder, he drilled a low cross into the six-yard box where Mbappe converted at the far post.
The Paris St Germain striker has now scored six goals in his last six games for club and country and nine in just 24 appearances for the national team.
Mbappe, whose four shots in the first half was more than the entire Holland team, had a looping header comfortably claimed by Cillessen before France survived a penalty shout just past the half-hour.
Benjamin Pavard mistimed his tackle on Georginio Wijnaldum, but was probably saved by his Dutch opponent knocking the ball out of play a fraction before contact was made.
Wijnaldum caused problems for the hosts after the break, but, after evading both Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane on the right of the penalty area, he shot across goal and wide of the far post.
However, less than 60 seconds later Babel diverted home Kenny Tete’s cross after a good move down Holland’s right and, despite Areola getting a hand to the close-range shot, he could not keep it out.
Incredibly it was the former Liverpool winger’s first competitive international goal March 2005.
But Giroud rescued the hosts 15 minutes from time when he hooked his leg around Virgil van Dijk to volley home substitute Bernard Mendy’s left-wing cross, ending the longest drought of his international career.