PARIS (AP) — Striker Kylian Mbappe scored four goals as defending champion France qualified for next year’s World Cup by crushing Kazakhstan 8-0 on Saturday.
Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema netted twice after the break in a fine display of attacking soccer as Les Bleus qualified for Qatar as group winner with one game to spare.
“Everyone had their slice of their cake tonight, there was a real understanding between the players,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “It’s a beautiful night of soccer.”
France has an insurmountable four-point lead over second-place Finland in Group D.
France was missing the injured Paul Pogba so Adrien Rabiot started in midfield at Parc des Princes, where he used to play for Paris Saint-Germain with Mbappe.
It was the perfect location for Rabiot’s first international goal as he headed home powerfully from Antoine Griezmann’s pinpoint corner in the 75th. Griezmann’s late penalty gave him 42 goals for France, and one more than midfield great Michel Platini.
Mbappe was about to be taken off when substitute Moussa Diaby cleverly played him in for a low finish in the 87th and a 23rd international goal. Moments later Deschamps joined in the applause as Mbappe came off.
He had already thrilled the 45,000 home fans with a first international hat trick — including a rare header — inside 32 minutes. Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman was in great form down the right and set two of those goals up.
“We showed great ideas, movement and we took our chances well,” Deschamps said. “Kingsley has the ability to dribble and cross. He was a bonus for us on the right side.”
Deschamps will be delighted to see how quickly the partnership between the 33-year-old Benzema and the 22-year-old Mbappe is developing.
“We showed we have a good understanding and combine well together,” said Benzema, who has eight goals in 12 matches since being recalled by Deschamps in time for this summer’s European Championship.
In Saturday’s earlier game, Finland won 3-1 at Bosnia and Herzegovina despite playing more than 50 minutes with 10 players to move above Ukraine and in contention for a playoff place. Finland is two points ahead of Ukraine.
Forward Marcus Forss, who plays for Premier League team Brentford, put the Finns ahead in the 29th minute.
Finland’s Jukka Raitala was sent off eight minutes later for a rough tackle on fellow fullback Sead Kolasinac, but the home side, missing its injured 60-goal leading scorer Edin Dzeko, could not take advantage.
Robin Lod, who plays for Minnesota United in the MLS, made it 2-0 shortly after the break before winger Luka Menalo pulled one back with 20 minutes left in Zenica.
But defender Daniel O’Shaughnessy settled the visitors’ nerves when he made it 3-1 moments later.
Finland hosts France and Ukraine goes to Bosnia and Herzegovina in their last group games on Tuesday.
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