Football’s Newest Superstar in the World Cup Final

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France will look to claim their second ever World Cup crown this Sunday against Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Croatia. France has shined in attack this tournament with Antoine Greizmann, Paul Pogba and Olivier Giroud all impressing throughout the Cup, but France’s brightest star has undoubtedly been the 19-year-old phenom, Kylian Mbappe.

Kylian Mbappe moved from Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain in the Summer of 2017 for 135 million Euros. (Photo Credit: FIFA.com)

Even to fans that follow European football religiously, Mbappe’s breakout performance’s during the past month, a continuation of the Mercurial rise that’s seen him bloom at Monaco before sealing a move to Paris Saint-Germain has been remarkable.

Mbappe has appeared in all six of Les Bleu’s matches this World Cup and has scored three goals from the right wing. The young star has started all but one of those matches; France’s meaningless draw against Denmark after both sides had already booked their place in the knock-out rounds.

To pretend scoring three goals in a World Cup as a 19-year-old is a small feat is crass, but Mbappe’s stat-line does little to illustrate his brilliance on the pitch throughout this World Cup. The winger will draw heavy attention from Croatian Head Coach Zlatko Dalic and defender’s Sime Vrsaljko and Domagoj Vida will be shaking in their boots at the prospect of containing the world’s second most expensive transfer of all-time.

Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring a brace against Argentina in the knockout rounds. (Photo Credit: FIFA.com)

The first threat that stands out about Mbappe’s game is his blistering pace. Combined with a delicate first touch Mbappe can accelerate past defenders at ease and forces opponents to think twice before attempting to close him down.

All tournament long defenders have given Mbappe a lot of space on the ball, respecting his speed and touch, knowing that containing the speedy Frenchman is much more important than pressing.

Sunday’s final will be Mbappe’s 22nd cap at only 19 years of age. (Photo Credit: FIFA.com)

Throughout the knockout stages defenders have been trying to eliminate Mbappe’s runs down the wing by cheating toward the sideline, fearful of the kind of runs that see Mbappe skip past a defender at midfield, burn them for pace to the end-line, before he lifts his head to play a deadly pass, or dribble into the right side of the box with the left-back scrambling.

When defenders do cheat in toward the sidelines Mbappe punishes them with one of his other key attributes, his excellent vision. Vision: the combination of field awareness, understanding of your team-mates movements, overall soccer IQ and ability to get the ball exactly where you want it may be one of the most under-rated parts of the 19-year-olds game. At least it was until Mbappe did this to Belgium in the Semi-Finals:

That, dear Reader, is pure class! From a player who still has ten years to find his prime! If only Olivier Giroud wasn’t so… Olivier Girouey, that would have been the goal of the tournament. Arsenal fans know what I mean.

But on top of his pace, his touch, his flash and his vision, Mbappe also has a clinical eye for goal. The French number 10 has scored three goals this tournament from only six shots on target, an impressive conversion rate. For comparison, Antoine Griezmann, whose scoring exploits have already propelled him to super-stardom, has scored three goals from 19 shots. All but one of Mbappe’s shots have been on target and against a Croatian backline featuring Dejan Lovren, it’s difficult to think that hands down choice to win Young Player of the Tournament, won’t have a goal or at the very least, an assist.

Mbappe may or may not lift the cup on Sunday evening. May or may not be a key player in France’s ultimate glory or downfall, but he has certainly announced himself to the entire world as one of Europe’s brightest stars. As John McClain once said, “Welcome to the party, Pal.” And speaking of hits from bygone years, does young Kylian have a chant from the fans yet? If not, I’d like to submit my suggestion. Surely, we can squeeze one more syllable into the chorus of this little ditty…

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