The night France's Kylian Mbappe broke his nose at Euro 2024 – 'Any ideas for masks?'

In another world Kylian Mbappe may have headed the ball home as he leapt in the air from Antoine Griezmann’s outswinging delivery.

But instead of connecting with the ball, he smashed his nose on the shoulder of Austria defender Kevin Danso in the 86th minute as France led Austria 1-0 in their opening European Championship group game.

The bridge of his nose immediately began to swell, blood pouring from his nostrils and splattering his white shirt. As France’s medical team attended to him, trying to stem the flow, Mbappe sneaked a quick glance up to the big screen to assess the damage. His nose was visibly crooked.

“He’s not well — he’s in bad shape,” France manager Didier Deschamps, who spoke with Mbappe immediately after the narrow victory as the striker lay on a massage table in the changing room, said brusquely after the game. “He’s got a banged-up nose, that’s for sure. It looks complicated. That’s the negative point of the evening for us.”

Mbappe nose

Les Bleus’ doctor Franck Le Gall diagnosed Mbappe had suffered a fractured nose, with his prognosis confirmed by X-rays at a Dusseldorf hospital.

“Any ideas for masks?” Mbappe wrote on X at 1.26am on Tuesday, accompanied by a smiley face emoji with a drip of sweat. The replies were filled with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle images, a nod to his nickname ‘Donatello’.

At least Mbappe could see the funny side as he left the hospital buoyed by the news that, for now, he would not require surgery.

Instead the France captain will receive treatment over the next few days and will be fitted with a mask to enable him to return to competition.

The protective covering will act as a cast and stop the bone from moving. It is a common solution, one which England captain Harry Kane and former Chelsea striker Diego Costa turned to when they suffered broken noses.

In determining the next step and whether surgery is required immediately, doctors would have considered if Mbappe could breathe through his nose and how much pain and swelling he had suffered around his face. It is not just the fracture to consider but the amount of inflammation which affects inhalation.

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Kane, then of Tottenham, wears a protective face mask in a Premier League game against Swansea in 2016 (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Even before the injury was inflicted, Mbappe had endured an eventful evening.

There had been doubts about his fitness heading into the Euros after he missed three training sessions during the preparation period. “The most important thing isn’t necessarily physical — the most important thing is mental,” said Mbappe in his press conference on the eve of the Austria game. “How far am I prepared to go to win? I’m ready to do anything.

“I’d rather have my head than my legs. If you have both, it’s better and I hope to have both. What’s certain is I’ve got my head and now we’ll see if I’ve got my legs too.”

He had laughed and joked with his father, Wilfried, on the pitch upon the team’s arrival at the ground in Dusseldorf, and had started the game brightly, drawing fouls, interchanging well with left-back Theo Hernandez and getting into good goalscoring positions. But there were signs of rustiness when it came to his finishing.

In the 10th minute he broke free down the left wing but did not connect well with his shot. He worked his magic in the 38th minute, this time down the right, forcing Max Wober to head the ball into his own net but, in reality, Wober inadvertently did all the Frenchman’s work for him.

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Mbappe celebrates France’s goal against Austria (PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images)

As Mbappe walked off the pitch at half-time, he grimaced, shouting “Merde” (‘S***’). Another chance had gone begging as Griezmannn sent a looping ball over the top, but the striker could not control it first time with an outstretched boot and Austria goalkeeper Patrick Pentz eventually smothered the ball.

The most shocking miss, however, came after the interval when the forward bore down on Pentz, one on one, in the perfect position to set the stadium alight only to curl his shot wide of the far post. French fans inside the Merkul-Spiel Arena in Dusseldorf were left aghast.

Real Madrid’s new signing has still not scored at a European Championship despite having 18 shots worth 2.5 expected goals.

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Mbappe, in front of goal, curls his shot wide of the far post (FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

To add insult to injury late on, Mbappe was booked after he foolishly and unnecessarily returned to the pitch without referee Jesus Gil Manzano’s permission having received treatment for his nose. Deschamps tried to placate the referee, aware that the caution may come back to haunt his team. If Mbappe is booked again between now and the end of the quarter-finals he will be suspended for the next game.

But the question is when Mbappe will next feature for France.

It seems a matter of days as opposed to weeks but, in tournament time, even hours can prove costly. France have a crunch match against the Netherlands which could well determine the destiny of the group’s leadership on Friday and that may well be deemed too soon for Mbappe’s return, especially if he is still receiving treatment. The player will be assessed daily in the build-up to that fixture in Leipzig with a nation collectively holding their breath.

Deschamps does have plenty of attacking options as alternatives, even if none carries the same threat as his injured captain. The head coach started Marcus Thuram alongside Mbappe and turned to veteran striker Olivier Giroud when his star player was withdrawn in the 90th minute. He also has Paris Saint-Germain forwards Bradley Barcola and Randal Kolo Muani at his disposal.

Yet no one can replace the talismanic figure though and Mbappe’s absence would be keenly felt.

“The French team will always be stronger with Kylian,” added Deschamps. “If the news doesn’t go our way, we’ll fight without him. But of course, Kylian is Kylian, and when he is in any team, the team is inevitably stronger.”

For a brief period on Monday night, as he sat clutching his face with blood staining his shirt and the bridge of his nose swelling markedly, Mbappe must have contemplated whether his Euros might be over before he could truly make his mark.

Instead, clad in his protective mask, the striker will believe he is not done quite yet.

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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