With a turn of pace, Kylian Mbappe sprints forward with the ball, with two Argentinians right behind him, chasing him non-stop like “its” in a game of tag. All of a sudden, another defender comes rushing over; 3 defenders now! But Mbappe is still too fast. He looks down at the ball then up again, and it was then when another frustrated defender hurries over, deliberately fouling Mbappe in the penalty box. “A PENALTY FOR FRANCE!” the commentator yells. This scene alone perfectly encompasses the sheer dominance and impact of the young striker Mbappe. Not only does he easily zoom through 4 defenders in one run, but also earns a penalty for his team. But the French team did not always have this much success. It was mainly because of the arrival of rising star Kylian Mbappe that France was able to win the 2018 World Cup, their first Jules Rimet trophy in 20 years.
In the 2014 World Cup, it was obvious that France had a promising roster with many veterans and a few young talents as well. They managed to get as far as the quarter-finals, before ultimately getting knocked out by Germany. Despite being able to create many opportunities, like Valbuena’s 34th-minute shot, and Karim Benzema’s injury-time effort, France desperately needed the finishing ability and a player that could score. Meanwhile, Parisian rising talent Kylian Mbappe was performing astonishingly at the club-level, scoring 21 goals and achieving 15 assists in all tournaments combined; the perfect talent for the French. Because of this, he was able to get a spot in Didier Deschamps roster for the French team in the upcoming 2018 World Cup, which was also where he demonstrated his true impact and potential.
The first way he showed this was through his fancy yet effective tricks, specifically in the playmaking department. An example where this could be seen was in the group-stage game against Peru. In this match, Mbappe was playing on the right-wing. When receiving the ball from Benjamin Pavard, Mbappe was near the sidelines and was almost out-of-bounds. This was when he cleverly flicked the ball over the defender to Griezmann. This move was quick, unexpected, and most importantly, effective. Another example of this that could be seen during the tournament was during France’s match against Belgium in the semi-finals. This was an intense game where France was ahead by just one point. In the 56th minute, after receiving a good pass from Blaise Matuidi, Mbappe decided to use a sneaky backpass to move the ball to Giroud for an amazing goal-scoring opportunity. Although faced with so much pressure, Mbappe was able to convert the many tricks up his sleeve into scoring opportunities for other teammates. This is an extraordinary skill to have, especially at such a young age.
Mbappe also possesses astounding dribbling ability, especially when paired with his cheetah-like speed. The first of the many dribbling moves in his arsenal is the Ronaldo Chop, made famous by none other than Mbappe’s idol, Ronaldo himself. When dribbling the ball down the sidelines, Mbappe effectively uses this move to cause an abrupt change of direction as he cuts into the field, giving him more open space. Mbappe also uses many faints and spins while dribbling to fake the defender by going one way, and then going the other. But his most well-known and effective move is solely his speed, recording a top speed of 36.2 kmph. An instance where this was seen, was in the game against Argentina, as introduced beforehand. He sprinted past 4 defenders easily, before earning his team a penalty. These examples just show the effectiveness of his dribbling skills, as he uses his skills and acceleration hand in hand.
Another example where Mbappe’s impact could be seen was through his superb finishing ability, particularly in the games against Argentina and Croatia, where he scored 3 goals in these games combined. In the game against Argentina, after a deflection from the opposing defender, Mbappe slid the ball to his left and struck the ball into the back of the net with his left foot. Not only did this shot show his ability to use both feet to finish, but this shot also allowed France to take the lead in an intense match. For the second shot, as Mbappe received a good pass from Giroud, he struck the ball into the bottom corner first-touch, a shot impossible for the goalie to reach. This goal sealed the deal for the French victory and earned them a spot in the quarter-finals. In the important finals game against Croatia, Mbappe scored a goal from way outside the goal-keeper’s box, showing that he has a long-range shot, thrives under pressure, and is unafraid of taking risks like these. This goal made Mbappe the first teenager to score in the World Cup finals since the legendary Pele himself.
The final skill that Mbappe had, unlike many other teens, was his understanding of the game. This allowed him to tie all his other skills (shooting, dribbling, and passing) together, to ultimately become one of the most dangerous players in the game. The first way he shows this is through his spatial and positional awareness. Mbappe is always in a good position to attack the net and constantly creates trouble for opposing defenders. He also makes creative and effective runs and uses his speed to get into open space. In addition, Mbppe has marvellous anticipation and mental speed. He is always one or two steps ahead of the defender and has elite reading of the game. Lastly and possibly most importantly, Mbappe is composed. He has the ability to hold his nerves and only shoots when he has the chance. He is patient and good at adjusting his shot. It is important to realize that Mbappe is not only skillful with the ball, but also impacts the team without the ball as well.
As seen so far, Mbappe is not just another young “speedster”. He brings a never-seen-before spark to the French team and was one of the main reasons why they were able to win the 2018 World Cup. He has the important attributes of passing, shooting, dribbling, speed, and understanding of the game, bringing a well-rounded offense to the team. He is good both on-ball and off-ball, and can bring a major impact to the team, even without the ball at his feet. Overall, Kylian Mbappe was a true miracle.