PARIS — Holders France ran riot to reach the 2022 World Cup finals with a match to spare after four goals from Kylian Mbappe helped them to an 8-0 home demolition of Kazakhstan in their Group D qualifier on Saturday.
The result left France top of the group on 15 points from seven games, four ahead of second-placed Finland who they visit in their final match on Tuesday.
Karim Benzema added two goals while Adrien Rabiot and Antoine Griezmann netted one each to cap an impressive performance at the Parc des Princes and seal France’s berth in next year’s 32-nation tournament in Qatar.
Coach Didier Deschamps heaped praise on an effervescent performance and singled out France’s front line, who ripped the visitors apart with crisp one-touch passing.
“The aim was to qualify, but we did it in style too and you could see the enjoyment the players got from playing together and how they shared things, notably the forwards,” he told on French television.
“It’s good, everyone got their slice of the cake. It’s a result that rewards everything we did well in both halves. The risk at half time is to drop off a bit, but we continued, that’s also about respecting your opponent.”
Mbappe, who was instrumental in winning the 2018 tournament in Russia, added: “We wanted to give ourselves a chance to defend our title. Even for those who have played in it and won it, it’s an ultimate dream to play in a World Cup.”
Deschamps fielded a 3-4-3 formation with Kingsley Coman deployed as a right wing-back and the attack-minded strategy produced an avalanche of goals as France’s natural talent shone.
The floodgates opened after Mbappe fired France into a sixth-minute lead with a superb first-time shot from a Theo Hernandez assist, with the home side always two gears ahead of the Kazakhs.
Mbappe added the second in the 12th minute with a simple finish into an empty net past a defender after Coman raced down the right, and he completed a first-half hat trick in the 32nd when he headed home an inch-perfect cross from Coman.
The French never took their foot off the pedal after the break and soon increased their advantage with two quickfire goals from Benzema, who poked in the fourth from a Hernandez assist before Mbappe turned provider.
Rabiot scored his first international goal in the 75th minute as he headed in Griezmann’s corner before the latter netted his 42nd with a penalty, overtaking Michel Platini as his country’s third-highest top scorer.
The brilliant Mbappe put the icing on the cake three minutes before the end with a sublime finish into the bottom-right corner from a fine assist by substitute Moussa Diaby, with the home crowd already in full swing.
Benzema was delighted after combining with Mbappe to devastating effect up front.
“We’ve shown that we are compatible, that we can play together and have fun while scoring, creating goals and playing for the team,” he said. “I am so happy to have played as I did and above all to have won.” — Reuters