Goal drought, bloodied nose underlines Mbappe’s tournament misfortune

Kylian Mbappe holds his face
Kylian Mbappe holds his face
Photo credit: Reuters

A bloodied nose, a booking for unsportsmanlike conduct and an unfathomable miss that silenced a stadium -- France's Kylian Mbappe underlined his troubled relationship with the European Championship on Monday amidst uncertainty over his injury.

The France captain, to his credit, was sublime in creating the goal that beat Austria 1-0, but his failure to score at a Euros will weigh heavily on a player who has found the net 12 times at World Cups, including a hat-trick in the 2022 final.

Mbappe's last match at a European Championship ended in acrimony for France, with his miss in a shootout the trigger for their shock second-round exit to Switzerland at Euro 2020 after his side squandered a two-goal advantage late in the game.

Goal droughts do not come often for Mbappe but France's opening Group D match on Monday marked his fifth successive Euros game without scoring after a combined 18 goal attempts. The 25-year-old was impressive and involved in just about every France move, but it just was not his night.

He ended it with a bloodied nose after a nasty collision with the shoulder of Austria's Kevin Danso while attempting to head home an Antoine Griezmann free kick, which Mbappe had won when he took a blow to the face moments earlier.

After receiving treatment he left the field initially but in a bizarre move Mbappe returned minutes later then sat down on the pitch, prompting boos and jeers from the Austria fans and a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"It's very bad news for us tonight," France manager Didier Deschamps said. "If you had Kylian who is in a difficult situation... Obviously, the French team with or without him, this is not the same thing. I hope he can be there." He left the stadium in an ambulance to undergo X-rays and the French Football Federation later confirmed he had broken nose and would have a mask made.

Given Mbappe's performance on Monday France will be hoping it won't be long before he is firing again and that he recovers in time for France's next game with Netherlands on Friday. Mbappe was the standout French player, reeling off perfectly weighted passes, coolly spreading the ball around and injecting bursts of lightning pace to leave his markers for dead. He threatened to score after nine minutes with a fierce low shot from an angle that tested goalkeeper Patrick Pentz.

Mbappe then created a goal from nothing near halftime with a quick shimmy to skip around three players before delivering a cross that was headed into his own net by Maximilian Wober.

The forward chased everything, starting one move in his own half with a pass before sprinting two-thirds of the way down the field to try to finish off the move.

He stunned the crowd in the 54th minute when he accelerated past an opponent at the halfway line before darting into the area and uncharacteristically firing a shot wide with time, space and only the goalkeeper to beat, prompting a cheeky grin.