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Kylian Mbappe: Off night for France captain, but N’Golo Kante shines in Euro 2024 opener

The Traitors US

Kante last played for France in a Uefa Nations League game against Denmark in June 2022 before making his comeback in the friendly against Luxembourg earlier this month.

He may now be plying his trade in the Saudi Pro League with Al-Ittihad, but Deschamps knows rich pedigree and a proven winning record when he sees it and Kante still ticks all the boxes – despite being at the latter stage of a glittering career.

Kante won the World Cup with France in 2018, the Premier League with Leicester City and Chelsea and also lifted the Europa League and Champions League trophies while at Stamford Bridge.

And on the evidence he produced in the winning start that is always so vital in these tournaments, Kante is not on a sentimental journey here in Germany.

From the first whistle to the last in this 1-0 win, Kante showed he still possesses all the old instincts to sniff out danger, keep the midfield – and as a consequence the France team – ticking over and act as an impenetrable shield against any Austria threat.

It was summed up in one vital moment late on when, with Austria chasing an equaliser, substitute Patrick Wimmer broke clear and was racing towards France keeper Mike Maignan.

Kante was yards behind Wimmer but found the pace and positioning to overhaul him, then got in front of the Austrian to sweep the ball away before he could get his shot – and a potential equaliser – on target.

It brought a huge roar of approval from the massed ranks of France fans inside Arena Dusseldorf. It was a typical Kante moment that effectively sealed the win.

He was rightly voted man of the match, his value to Deschamps underscored. The great teams always like to have an Mbappe – but they also need a Kante.

Whether Kante can produce this standard regularly at the veteran stage remains to be seen, but his track record suggests you would not bet against it.

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Written by Joseph

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