France swept into the last 16 after a Kylian Mbappe double sealed a 2-1 victory over Denmark on Saturday as Robert Lewandowski scored the first World Cup goal of his career in Poland’s win over giant-killing Saudi Arabia.
Mbappe, one of the heroes of France’s march to the 2018 World Cup title, ensured Les Bleus would be the first team into the knockout rounds after popping up with an 86th-minute winner to break Danish hearts at Stadium 974 in Doha.
The win all but guarantees France will enter the last 16 as winners of Group D heading into their final game against Tunisia on Wednesday.
“For us, it’s ideal, we have six points so we’re sure to qualify after two matches,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.
“We’ll appreciate that before the next match in four days. It brings tranquility, assurance that we qualify.”
Mbappe had fired France into the lead on 61 minutes after Denmark’s defence finally buckled following wave-after-wave of French pressure.
However Andreas Christensen jolted France with a 68th minute equaliser before Mbappe’s late show sealed all three points.
Earlier Saturday, Poland star Lewandowski finally broke his World Cup scoring duck in a 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia at the Education City Stadium.
It was a World Cup reality check for the Saudis, who had stunned Argentina 2-1 in their opening game.
“The importance of the goal and how I scored it made all my dreams from childhood come true,” said Lewandowski, who had missed a penalty in Poland’s opening 0-0 draw with Mexico on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old was overcome with emotion having capitalised on a blunder by midfielder Abdulelah Al-Malki.
“I think the older I get the more emotional I get,” Lewandowski said. “I’m aware it might be my last World Cup and I wanted to be able to say that I’ve played and scored at World Cups.
“The result is most important, but getting both is great.”
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was the hero for Poland, however, producing a stunning double save in the first half.
He first denied Salem Al-Dawsari from the penalty spot, then made a stunning stop to keep out the rebound.
In other early games on Saturday, Australia defeated Tunisia 1-0, recovering from a chastening opening defeat against champions France to keep their hopes alive.
Striker Mitch Duke scored the only goal of a tight game with a clever header in the first half and Australia desperately held on to silence Tunisia’s vociferous fans.
The Socceroos sit second in Group D with three points from two games, with a game to come against Denmark.
“As a striker you need to have that confidence and believe that you can score in every match,” said Japan-based centre-forward Duke, 31.
Saturday’s final match sees Argentina and Lionel Messi attempt to resurrect their World Cup hopes in a crucial clash with Mexico.
The two-time world champions, who arrived in Qatar on a 36-match unbeaten run, are in a precarious position after their stunning opening loss to Saudi Arabia.
The Argentines said they would draw on memories of superstar Diego Maradona, their 1986 World Cup-winning captain who died two years ago this week, to inspire them against the Mexicans.
“We keep him in mind. He was a very important person in world football, and not just for us Argentines,” said Inter Milan forward Lautaro Martinez.
Argentina are not the only footballing giant fighting for survival at the World Cup, with Germany facing a must-win battle against Spain on Sunday in Group E.
Germany, beaten 2-1 by Japan in a remarkable opening upset, would be eliminated if they lose to the 2010 champions and Japan avoid defeat to Costa Rica.
Germany coach Hansi Flick described the game as his team’s “first final of this World Cup.”
“I am convinced of our ideas,” Flick said. “We will approach the game with courage and belief in our quality.”