PARIS (Agencies): Olivier Giroud ended his international goal drought with the winner as France beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Sunday in their first match on home soil since lifting the World Cup in July.
Giroud swept in a Benjamin Mendy cross in the 75th minute for his first goal in 11 games in a France shirt, after the Chelsea striker went through the entirety of his country’s triumphant campaign in Russia without scoring.
Kylian Mbappe had earlier put France ahead in an explosive performance from the 19-year-old, before Ryan Babel briefly restored parity in the second half.
The Stade de France exploded in celebration at Giroud’s winner in a game that had a competitive edge as part of UEFA’s new Nations League.
However, this match on a balmy evening was really just a prelude to World Cup victory celebrations on the pitch in front of almost 80,000 fans at the national stadium after the final whistle.
“The victory was the most important thing, so we can have a great party,” coach Didier Deschamps told television station M6. “I am really pleased for Olivier. Strikers can have periods like that where they are not as efficient, but he is useful in our build-up play, he scored a lovely goal, and on top of that it gave us the victory.”
The French team and their supporters saw this occasion as the opportunity to make up for the lack of a memorable public celebration in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup triumph in Russia.
The day after beating Croatia 4-2 in the final, Les Bleus paraded hurriedly down the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris en route to a reception hosted by President Emmanuel Macron.
The rushed nature of those celebrations disappointed the estimated 300,000 fans who took to the streets, and so this time the victorious squad were presented one by one to supporters after the final whistle.
The World Cup trophy was shown off as well, at the stadium where France first won it in 1998. “Now is the time to have a party,” Paul Pogba told M6. “When we came back to France it was very short. There was all the security around the bus and we couldn’t really celebrate with the public. This time we are at the Stade de France, it’s full, it’s beautiful.”
Back-from-boycott Eriksen punishes Wales
Christian Eriksen scored twice in a 2-0 victory over Wales in the Nations League on Sunday as Denmark’s first-team players returned after boycotting midweek friendly over a contract dispute.
The Tottenham midfielder put the Danes ahead with just over half an hour gone in Aarhus. Eriksen then added a second on 63 minutes from the penalty spot after Ethan Ampadu handled.
Age Hareide’s Denmark go top of a group that also includes the Republic of Ireland, who were routed 4-1 by Wales in their opening game on Thursday.