The career arc of French forward Kylian Mbappe has been incredible, with him helping carry Monaco to a shocking Ligue 1 title over Paris Saint-Germain at just 18 years old – then getting bought by PSG, and becoming a prominent part of the national team. Given all that he has accomplished before age 20, Mbappe is already making history at the 2018 World Cup. Now it is up to the starlet to continue to make history all the way to a major tournament title.
Mbappe’s latest moment of greatness came in France’s second group stage game against Peru. The teenager slotted home the only goal of that match to earn France their second win in as many matches and secured their passage into the knockout rounds. Perhaps what is most impressive here is that Mbappe did not shrink from his moment the way that many of other players have appeared to throughout this World Cup.
France, as a whole, have been accurately considered to be out of sync and unconvincing during this tournament. Their attack has struggled to put goals on the board, with one of their three goals coming via own goal, and another coming from a penalty. Only one goal from open play is not a hallmark of the normally free-flowing French is concerning, but Mbappe’s ability to stabilise the team and keep them moving toward their goal of winning the World Cup is a huge plus.
Taking a look at the big picture, William Hill have France at 7/1 odds to win the tournament after two group stage games. Given their struggles against the likes of Australia and Peru, it may seem hard to believe for some that the French will lift the trophy. But if Mbappe can help the team operate well enough to win while other players struggle, those players will eventually get back on track and provide reinforcements to Mbappe en route to an attempt at a title.
What makes Mbappe so effective is how relentless he is at making runs toward the net. At Monaco, his high activity level made him the perfect foil for Falcao, who is a more stationary striker than he was earlier in his career. This worked out even better at PSG, where Mbappe was allowed to simply make runs while playmakers like Neymar sought him out time and time again while Cavani was able to play poacher within their system.
With France, both Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann are both able to make those incisive runs in behind defenders, which will keep each of them just a bit fresher than they would be when shouldered with the same workload for their club teams. If France can get Griezmann on track to go with what Mbappe is doing, their attack can spur them past some of the other top teams in the tournament in the knockout rounds. For now, the rest of France can continue to sleepwalk through the first round in Russia, as the teen prodigy Mbappe continues to carry them forward.