Kylian Mbappé, one of the world’s brightest talents, has a major test coming in the form of the 2022 World Cup. At league play, he dominates the French club scene and leads a stacked frontline against Europe’s elite. Internationally, he is the catalyst for France’s impressive recent results.
However, mediocre performances in the Nations League have pundits doubting France in the Qatar-hosted World Cup. With so many star players and storylines at play, egos are bound to collide at one point. France supporters have legitimate reason for worry, despite the depth at hand for Didier Deschamps.
Yet, Mbappé continues to emerge as a dependable force for France. Upon his injury against Denmark, France felt a notable absence at the top of its formation. Consequently, the side dropped to fourth in its Nations League group. When the PSG star rejoined, he salvaged a draw with a late equalizer.
Ahead of the World Cup, France depends on his consistent lethality in front of net and on the ball. Kylian Mbappé is, unsurprisingly, the key for France at World Cup 2022.
Flashback to 2018
Before Kylian Mbappé changed the world in Russia, he started blowing minds in Monaco with his pacy play. He wowed Ligue 1 fans and soccer enthusiasts worldwide. In 29 appearances as a teenager in the league, he scored 15 and assisted on a further eight. His unforgettable performances highlighted one of Monaco’s most memorable seasons. For example, he potted a hat-trick against Metz. Famously, he helped to oust Manchester City in the Champions League by scoring two goals over two games. Finally, he lifted the Ligue 1 trophy in a shock over future club PSG.
That transfer to PSG cost the Parisian club just short of $200 million, second all-time to teammate Neymar. The pair, along with Angel di Maria and Edinson Cavani, dominated in France. Neymar, Mbappé and Cavani scored 87 goals combined in that first league season. Mbappé, still a teenager, scored 21 against French opposition. That consistency and dominance yielded a call-up to the French international side. However, he already had experience to draw on.
In advance of Russia 2018, Deschamps called Mbappé up during the Frenchman’s time at Monaco. His substitute appearance against Luxembourg started a bright international tenure.
While at Monaco, he earned his first-cap playing against the lowly Luxembourg side for twelve minutes as a substitute. Later, he picked up an assist against England and scored against the Netherlands. He arrived for the World Cup familiar with the French international play style.
Shocking the world
Despite his young age, Deschamps considered Mbappé important to Les Bleus. To the 1998 World Cup winner, the PSG star’s age did not matter. Instead, his technicality, quality and more rocketed him to the top of the depth chart.
“Those young people are there, and if I have selected them it is because they are good for the team. They are here because they have the quality to be here,” Deschamps said in a pre-World Cup interview.
His words foreshadowed Mbappé’s involvement in the group stage. He played the full 90 in the opener against Australia, a 2-1 win. He failed to appear on the scoresheet, despite showing his usual slippery self with smooth dribbling creating space.
Mbappé scored his first World Cup goal in the second game. He scored in the 31st minute for the game’s only goal off a deflected shot from Olivier Giroud. Mbappé’s signature celebration followed the tap-in. At the time, it appeared to be a superstar in the making.
Once in the knockout stages, Mbappé put his blazing speed to use. He made a remarkable run across the field before Marcos Rojo took him out in the penalty box. Antoine Griezmann converted for France’s early lead. In a five-minute span in the second half, Mbappé scored a pair, including a skillful control of a stray pass before cutting into the box and letting fly. This game against Argentina and Lionel Messi showed the prowess and talent of Kylian Mbappé.
His dominance curtailed in the quarterfinals and semifinals against Uruguay and Belgium. Even then, in the Final against Croatia, he cemented his legendary status. A long-range strike for France’s fourth iced an eventual 4-2 win. In scoring, Mbappé became just the first teenager to score in a World Cup Final since Pelé.
World Cup hardware
Mbappé received several honors at the end of the tournament. For one, he won Best Young Player at the World Cup. Also, fans voted him into the World Cup Dream Team ahead of Antoine Griezmann and Eden Hazard. Furthermore, his four goals finished second in the tournament. He bagged the same number as Griezmann, Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Simply put, he was a sight to behold at the World Cup. He demolished opponents with athleticism seldom seen before.
After the World Cup
Mbappé became a vital part of the French national team after his time in Russia. Yet things took a turn for the worst at the 2020 Euros. France entered a gauntlet of a group with Germany, Portugal and Hungary. Those three nations kept Mbappé from scoring despite eight shots in three group stage games. German and Portuguese defenders stifled Mbappé, and he did not create space flawlessly, as he did for PSG.
His best game came against Switzerland in the round of 16. He set up Benzema for an equalizer, before the Real Madrid striker and Paul Pogba made it 3-1 with 15 minutes to play. Then, two quick-fire goals put Les Bleus in a tight spot.
After extra time, both teams converted all their spot kicks, with Mbappé needing to score to keep France alive. A miss caps off one of the biggest upsets and collapses in recent European Championship history. Mbappé placed his effort to the top right, but Yann Sommer acrobatically batted the ball away. Switzerland was through.
Mbappé received harsh criticism from soccer fans around the globe. Many blamed his perceived ego for perhaps holding him back, desiring a reality check for the young star.
The setback did not quench his appetite for trophies. He scored twice and assisted twice against Belgium and Spain to win the Nations League.
At the current rate, his UEFA Nations League performances are subpar. France sits last in its group and can not defend its title. In fact, it is closer to relegation to League B. His one goal, an 83rd-minute equalizer against Austria, could prove crucial, though. Aside from a few erratic performances, Mbappé is a star player for France and always impacts the game.
Kylian Mbappé at World Cup 2022
Almost half a decade with France boils down to a crucial 2022 World Cup. France is feeling the pressure to repeat as champions and cement its status as the world’s best. They have the world’s best players, with Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, and more ready for a call-up.
Yet France’s key player is world-class striker Kylian Mbappé . He has a long, storied career with France despite his young age. His quality proves he can be a great striker if history is on his side.
This World Cup will be important as Mbappé looks to build a legacy. It is worth watching this young star blossom into a full-grown legend. It will be worth watching whether Mbappé can build off his performance in the World Cup or if the sophomore slump will get to the PSG forward.
- Title image: James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images
- Second image: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images