It took a stunning goal for World Cup champion France to get its first win in international soccer’s newest competition on Sunday.
Not from superstar Kylian Mbappe — who did tap in the first goal of France’s 2-1 win over the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League game — and not from Antoine Griezmann or Paul Pogba, as France fielded all 10 outfield starters from the World Cup final.
Instead, Olivier Giroud, with one thunderous left-foot volley in the 75th minute at Stade de France, matched his entire tally of on-target efforts during seven games in Russia.
The Chelsea forward’s first goal in 11 games for France was his 32nd for Les Bleus — one more than Zinedine Zidane.
Elsewhere in the Nations League, Denmark’s star players returned after a brief strike to beat Wales 2-0, and Georgia and Macedonia both won again to suggest they could be the fourth-tier underdog using a complex competition format to help qualify for the 2020 European Championship.
UEFA launched the Nations League to give all its 55 member countries winnable competitive games and eliminate often disliked and mostly worthless friendly games.
There is still space for some friendlies, though, and Germany beat Peru 2-1 Sunday. On his debut in his home stadium, Hoffenheim midfielder Nico Schulz scored the winning goal in the 85th minute.
Germany and France kicked off the Nations League on Thursday with a 0-0 draw in Munich, and Mbappe and Giroud ensured the favored French now has control in League A of three-team Group 1 which concludes in November.
Mbappe was alone at the far post in the 14th to finish a fierce pass from the left by Blaise Matuidi into an unguarded net.
The Dutch troubled France in the second half, and Ryan Babel — his hair dyed red — equalized in the 67th when he muscled aside defender Benjamin Pavard to connect with right-back Kenny Tete’s cross.
Giroud struck from a cross by substitute Djibril Sidibe to ensure a post-match party atmosphere when most of a near-80,000 crowd stayed to celebrate a parade of the World Cup trophy.