France manager defends Mbappé amid criticism

France manager Didier Deschamps has come to the defence of his captain and star player Kylian Mbappé amid criticism of the striker’s Euro 2024 performances.

Mbappé, 25, has scored just once in the tournament — a penalty in the final group game against Poland — with France reaching the semifinals despite not scoring a goal from open play.

Deschamps substituted Real Madrid’s latest signing in extra time of their quarterfinal win over Portugal on penalties, with Mbappé saying he asked to be taken off.

Speaking on the French television show Téléfoot on Sunday, Deschamps reminded those criticising Mbappé of what he has already achieved in the sport.

“Don’t you think he has already made enough history, with what he has done so far?” the coach said. “He wants to make even more history.

“We did everything we could with him, with the medical staff, to get him to be here. During the preparation, he had a little back problem, too, but Kylian is here.”

Deschamps also responded to suggestions that if he is not entirely fit, Mbappé could be benched in order to try to kick-start the team’s spluttering attack.

The forward has been forced to play most of the tournament while wearing a mask, having broken his nose in a collision with Kevin Danso in his team’s opening group game against Austria.

“Even if he’s not 100%, I know very well that for the opponent, knowing he’s playing makes them think and forces them to adapt,” Deschamps said.

Mbappé, who scored a hat trick in his team’s 2022 World Cup final defeat and the fourth goal in their victory in the 2018 World Cup final, also has the support of teammates Randal Kolo Muani and Youssouf Fofana, who spoke at the team’s news conference on Sunday.

“Kylian is the player who scored three penalties in a World Cup final,” Fofana said. “I don’t know many players who have achieved this feat. I only know one.

“Whether it’s him or a player like Antoine [Griezmann] who is vice-captain, they have done things that most of the players in the dressing room haven’t done. When they talk, we listen.”

Kolo Muani added: “He [Mbappé] has this gift of carrying a group. He has so much experience — I think he was born to pull a group forward.”

France play Spain in their semifinal on Tuesday in Munich.

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