Eden Hazard set the tone, Samuel Umtiti scored the winner, but Kylian Mbappe was the star. The PSG forward impressed with his pace, dribbles and tricks. DW’s Matt Ford says he’s ready for the biggest stage of all.After 90 minutes of action, it was France who were in a third World Cup final. But it had taken Kylian Mbappe less than 20 seconds to steal the show in Saint Petersburg.
Straight from the kick-off in the semifinal, the 19-year-old received the ball on the right-hand side and immediately drove forward, spreading panic across the Belgian back line.
His cross evaded Antoine Griezmann in the center but the message had been sent, loud and clear. If anyone wasn’t already aware of the PSG teenager’s prodigious talent, they were now.
Bursting onto the stage two years ago at Monaco, Mbappe took Ligue 1 and the Champions League by storm with his blistering pace and lethal penetration.
Fans of Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City will have particularly painful memories of the damage he inflicted on their teams that season – but it will have come as no surprise to the coaches in the Parisian suburb of Bondy where the young Mbappe honed his skills in the gravel cage of the Stade Leo Lagrange.
And what a set of skills he has. The pace stands out – he proved it again when he latched onto a slightly over hit Paul Pogba through ball which he had no right to reach – but his abilities go beyond the physical.
When he lost his marker in the box towards the end of the first half to receive an inch-perfect Griezmann pass, he then cushioned a perfectly-weighted ball into the center which Olivier Giroud couldn’t quite connect with.
In the second half, he was even better. After launching yet another rapid French counterattack, the ball ended up at Mbappe’s feet. Facing away from goal, a backwards pass seemed the only option.
But Mbappe thinks differently. Quickly adjusting his body shape, he deftly flicked the ball from his right heel onto his left, bewildering one of Europe’s great defenders in Vincent Kompany and feeding a pass into Giroud. The chance came to nothing, but Mbappe’s skill remained breathtaking.
Of course, he’s not the finished product yet. As the clock ticked down, a poorly-timed dribble in his own half threatened to undermine all of France’s disciplined defensive work. As he gave the ball away, he was rightly admonished by Paul Pogba.
But it was the only questionable moment from a player who spent all game delivering the sublime.
From the humble beginnings in the banlieues of Paris to the glamour of the Parc des Princes, the boy from Bondy is now ready for the biggest stage of all.