Monday 23 July 2018

How Kylian Mbappe, France's teenage sensation, tore Argentina apart

France's forward Kylian Mbappe
France's forward Kylian Mbappe

Sam Wallace

The weakness that France had spotted in Argentina’s defensive high-line will have been no surprise to those who have seen the ball played in behind Nicolas Otamendi or Marcos Rojo in the Premier League, and when either is forced to chase back towards his own goal.

The difference this time was that in a player as spectacularly quick as Kylian Mbappe, Argentina barely had to leave any room in behind them for the man from Paris Saint-Germain to exploit the space. He is so fast that he makes quick players look slow - Kyle Walker at the Stade de France in June last year - and slow players look positively static.

Mbappe would prove himself just as lethal bursting after the ball over short distances in the second half, but it was his pace over longer sprints that Argentina first had to deal with. His two goals and astonishing speed made this the 19-year-old’s showpiece game at a World Cup finals.

Rojo was the first to suffer, crashing into Mbappe as he went down the left channel on 11 minutes at a speed that felt insulting, and conceding the penalty that France scored.

There was a mercy substitution for the Manchester United man at half-time and Argentina were lucky that the second time it happened, after the half hour, Nicolas Tagliafico was shrewd enough to commit his foul just a yard outside the penalty area.

The only way to mitigate against the Mbappe threat is to defend as deep as possible which obviously invites its own problems when it comes to giving space to Antoine Griezmann.

Argentina had 62 per cent possession in the first half, although Angel di Maria’s goal was their only attempt on target or off-target before half-time.

When they took the lead at 2-1, it was set for an epic siege but Benjamin Pavard’s equaliser, and Argentina’s poor defensive discipline, let France run at them again and again, with Mbappe first moving the ball quicker than anyone in the area for the third.

His second was a back-to-front team move finished by the razor-sharp teenager who is just a nightmare to defend against.

Online Editors

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