Kylian Mbappe wins big on night of France and Netherlands' drab draw

  • France held to 0-0 draw by Netherlands in Euro 2024 group stage
  • Xavi Simons denied goal for the Dutch in controversial circumstances
  • Kylian Mbappe sorely missed by Les Bleus
Mbappe ddi not feature against the Netherlands
Mbappe ddi not feature against the Netherlands / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Summer's over, people. The first 0-0 draw of Euro 2024 is upon us.

It's time to pack up and go home. The 2pm kick-offs on weekdays are a thing of the past. We're winding down from our everyday-diet of three matches, seven screamers and four own goals.

So we say a big thanks to France and the Netherlands for bringing down the curtain with their bore 0-0 draw - a true tragicomedy that William Shakespeare would have been proud of.

Whether it was Adrien Rabiot and Antoine Griezmann's sitters, or the typically English officiating for Xavi Simons' disallowed goal, or Memphis Depay's headband which lacks any semblance of self-awareness, Friday's stalemate had everything you didn't really want in a game between two heavyweights. We, as a continent, must have used all our karma on Spain's thrilling win over Italy the night before.

There were plenty of losers coming away from Leipzig, but Kylian Mbappe wasn't one of them, despite playing a grand total of zero minutes and zero seconds on the night.

UEFA will not allow Mbappe to wear this mask / FRANCK FIFE/GettyImages

Mbappe was effectively ruled out of contention after breaking his nose against Austria on matchday one. Though he had two different masks (thank you, UEFA, for getting to the heart of football's real problems once again) prepared to protect himself, he was not risked against the Dutch.

It's a decision which could come back to bite Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps. France head into the final matchday needing to better the result and score of the Netherlands if they are to qualify as group winners - the French face Poland, the Dutch take on Austria.

France have been the blueprint to follow in international football over the last decade or so, but creaking signs of weakness have started to show in their Euro 2024 games to this point. Though they had chances to kill both matches, they were caught slacking at various points and could have been on the receiving end of the sword instead.

Mbappe wasn't at his best in the Austria win, though did at least force an own goal out of Maximilian Wober and used his searing pace to create the golden chance which should have ended the contest later on. France didn't seem keen on exploring other routes to goal that day, and those tasked with stepping up against the Netherlands drew embarrassing blanks.

For all of the esteemed alternatives that France have - Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Marcus Thuram, Randal Kolo Muani, Kingsley Coman, Bradley Barcola and even Olivier Giroud - and the almost unmatched team ethic that Deschamps has instilled, they still need Mbappe's gloss and glory to be feared, the difference between a good team and a great team.

Is this surprising? Is it really that hard to comprehend that losing one of the world's best players makes a team worse? Of course not. But France's invincibility is slipping a little, and they need their masked hero back.

France have not lost a meaningful match at an international tournament since Mbappe was promoted into the senior squad in 2017 - penalty shootout defeats go down as draws, while their 2022 FIFA World Cup defeat to Tunisia did not matter either way. For the few seconds that the Netherlands appeared to have broken the French resistance before Anthony Taylor spoiled the Dutch party, there was a real shock and surprise that Les Bleus were actually behind.

Mbappe alone won't solve France's relatively minor problems, but it's hard to imagine they'll leave Germany this summer as the kings of Europe if he isn't their leading man.

Now they just have to hope the mask isn't his kryptonite.