Denmark scored a stunning 2-1 win over defending champions France in their UEFA Nations League opener at the Stade de France on Friday

France might be the defending UEFA Nations League champions and the FIFA World Cup holders, but their soft underbelly was exposed by an inspired Denmark side in front of their home fans on Friday.

Les Bleus went into the game as favourites and on the back of a nine-game unbeaten streak. It all came to nought as an Andreas Cornelius brace saw them throw away a 1-0 to succumb to a home defeat.

France got off to a good start and appeared to have taken the lead in the first half courtesy of Karim Benzema. But the goal was ruled out for offside. He made no mistake in the second half and combined well with Christopher Nkunku to put the home side ahead in the 51st minute.

Didier Deschamps’s side had Denmark on the ropes for much of the second half but did not kill them off. 1-0 is a dangerous lead in football, and Cornelius reminded France just that when he came off the bench to draw the visitors level in the 68th minute.

He once again stunned France, this time in the 88th minute, with a well worked-out plan to beat the offside trap to score the winner. A shell shocked Les Bleus side had no way back and succumbed to a poor defeat on the night. France next travel to Croatia for their second game of the group stage. Nothing less than a win will do for them. For now, The Hard Tackle looks at how the French players fared on the night.

Hugo Lloris: 6/10

The France captain was largely solid on the night. He did well to parry Christian Eriksen and Skov Olsen’s second efforts and was alert when called upon. There was little he could do for either of Andreas Cornelius’s efforts and in the end, that made all the difference. Lloris also struggled with his distribution on the night.

Jules Kounde: 6/10

The Sevilla man was not troubled much by the Danish attack as France took the game to the opponents. Kounde thus stepped up and contributed more to the attack. He particularly linked up well with Kingsley Coman, releasing the electric winger on a few occasions. He can be partly blamed for Denmark’s equaliser after giving away the ball poorly on the right flank. 

Raphael Varane: 5/10

The veteran defender did appear to switch off at times but recovered well enough to not let it prove fatal for his team. He handled Kasper Dolberg well and even put in an excellent tackle to prevent the Dane from getting away in the first half. Varane was taken off early in the second half with what looked like a hamstring injury.

Lucas Hernandez: 5/10

He largely did well and stood up to the Danish attack with conviction. That focus appeared to waver in the second half, and Hernandez looked unsure of his decision making at times. He should have communicated better with his brother in the build-up to Denmark’s winner.

Kingsley Coman: 5/10

The Bayern Munich man linked up well with Kounde on the right but found little joy in the first half. His pace caused the Danish defence problems, but he struggled to make it count. Coman did better in the second half as he cut into more central areas. He also tracked back well as Joakim Maehle threatened to push forward.

Aurelien Tchouameni: 6/10

The youngster is a transfer target for some of the best teams in Europe this summer, but his performance on the night lacked the all-around dynamism. Tchouameni read the game well and did his job well defensively. He failed to provide the spark in kick-starting attacks and lacked Paul Pogba’s vision to make things happen.

N’Golo Kante: 7/10

Kante linked up well with Tchouameni and got forward too when he could. The Chelsea midfielder impressed by breaking up play and securing the midfield for France. Kante could have also gotten himself on the scoresheet but saw his second-half strike cannon off the crossbar. 

Theo Hernandez: 4/10

Coming off the back of a Serie A title win, Hernandez failed to live up to the hype on the night. He was lively going forward but lacked the same decisiveness when defending. He was responsible for playing Cornelius onside for Denmark’s winner and failed to effectively communicate with his brother in the build-up to the goal.

Antoine Griezmann: 5/10

He was decent at best on the night, but failed to pull the strings in attack. Griezmann started off well and even had a shot on target. He faded as the game went on and was replaced by Adrien Rabiot in the 78th minute.

Kylian Mbappe: 4/10

It was an uncharacteristically poor outing for the French sensation who never quite got going on the night. Mbappe was taken off at half-time with what looked to be an issue with his knee. France will hope that he will return to action soon.

Karim Benzema: 7/10

The veteran was France’s standout player on the night and continued from where he left off for Real Madrid. He had a goal disallowed in the first half before going to give his side the lead in the 51st minute. Benzema was a constant thorn in the Danish defence who struggled to contain him for much of the night.

SUBSTITUTES

Christopher Nkunku: 6/10

The RB Leipzig man replaced Mbappe at half-time and provided France with a much needed attacking impetus. He provided the assist for Benzema’s opener and linked up well with the veteran on the night.

William Saliba: 4/10

Saliba replaced Varane at the hour mark and was privy to not turning up for Denmark’s winner.

Adrien Rabiot: 5/10

The Juventus man replaced Griezmann in the second half and added more energy to the French midfield. However, he lacked any standout moments as Denmark seized their chances late on.

Moussa Diaby: N/A

A stoppage-time replacement for Kounde.

Jonathan Klauss: N/A

A last throw of the dice by Deschamps who took off Coman in stoppage time.

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