France vs Argentina, World Cup 2018: The only way is up for French superstar Kylian Mbappe - scouting report

With his match-winning brace against Argentina, Mbappe has now cemented his name on the international stage. This was his coming of age, the moment that confirmed what we already knew

Samuel Lovett
Saturday 30 June 2018 16:44
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France Argentina players walk out at Kazan Arena

It's almost 20 years to the day that Michael Owen, competing at his first World Cup, announced himself on the main stage with that goal. It was a moment of pure, unadulterated class, one that bristled with all the youthful exuberance and self-belief of an 18-year-old who, at that point, had the world at his feet. Unbridled by the burden of expectation, and buoyed by the flourishing talents at his disposal, Owen looked and felt invincible.

"My body was probably quite immature but my football mind was like a 30-year-old when I was 17," he told The Independent last year. "I went into big games knowing I was going to score.” So it proved to be the case against Argentina on 1 July 1998, cutting through the South American side with his pace before finding the back of the net with a supremely intelligent finish.

Fast forward to the present and it's hard not to spot the same raw talent, the same confidence, the same sense of invincibility in Kylian Mbappe. One year older than Owen was at France '98, the teenager is walking a familiar path in Russia.

His performance against Argentina this afternoon was confirmation of this. As Owen did 20 years ago, the youngster terrorised La Albiceleste with his electrifying pace, penetrative runs and instinctive goal-finishing.

Goals aside, this destruction was best showcased by his powerful, 77-yard run that drove straight through the heart of Jorge Sampaoli's side. Culminating in a penalty that Antoine Griezmann calmly dispatched, it was a remarkable run that carved open Argentina while leaving a trail of players rendered redundant by the young Frenchman.

Moments later the teenager's pace was put to good use once again. Racing to meet a ball in behind the Argentina defence, Mbappe's exquisite first touch teed him up for what would have been a clear shot on goal - only to be hacked down by Nicolás Tagliafico. Paul Pogba failed to convert the subsequent free-kick but it was yet another reminder of the threat posed by Mbappe.

Kylian Mbappe (C) scores his team's fourth goal

It was fitting, then, that the teenager struck what proved to be a match-winning brace. Having spent so much of the match threatening to score, it only felt right that, in the 64th and 68th minute, the Frenchman's efforts finally paid off. Whereas up until that point it had been all about his pace, these goals said far more about his predatory instincts. For the first, it was all about the touch and movement. For the second, it was all about the finish.

With those two goals, Mbappe has now cemented his name on the international stage. This was his coming of age, the moment that confirmed what we already knew. As it was for Owen all those years ago, there is no limit to what Mbappe can achieve, no ceiling to his ambition and talents. The challenge, now, is ensuring he continues on this upward trajectory and avoids the fate that, over the years, has struck down so many emerging young talents. On the back of this performance, though, it feels like the only way is up for the French teenager.

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