He was the most applauded when his name sounded over the PA system and no one aroused more murmurs than him when he caught the ball on the wing, but it was not a night of wine and roses for Kylian Mbappé, who had to go from the brilliance of a heel to the perseverance to be able to leave the World Cup debut as he did four years ago, with a goal under his arm.
Mbappé, on his return to the tournament that crowned him in 2018, left a brilliant backheel to lead France to 2-1 and sealed the game with a header symbol of his perseverance. It was not his best game, but he did not need to shine excessively to leave his mark.
The Parisian, aware that the World Cup is an unparalleled showcase, became the magnet for the ball on the left wing, where he repeatedly forced Nathaniel Atkinson, Hearts winger, who is unaccustomed to dealing with these forces of nature in the Scottish league.
It was easy for Mbappé to overwhelm him, but Australia’s goal cooled his spirits. A jug of cold water that did not make the Frenchman nervous. After witnessing Adrien Rabiot’s equalizer, came one of his few moments of genius from the match.
Rabiot, by putting pressure on Atkinson, stole his wallet. The loose ball reached the domain of Mbappé, who saw the midfielder’s inside run and put a silk heel on him so that he penetrated and served the 50th goal of Olivier Giroud’s career.
It smelled like Mbappé could get the steamroller out. The game was going to open and the Parisian seemed comfortable in this setting. But he began to err. To cross into the void, to crash up to five shots without seeing the door and, above all, to miss a very clear chance, from a pass from Griezmann, in front of the goal.
It wasn’t his night, until the ‘click’ came. A cross from Ousmane Dembelé that Mbappé, with one of his most unknown characteristics, sent into the net with a header. The ball hit the post and kissed the net. Mbappé’s fifth goal in the World Cups, making him the second youngest to reach that figure before the age of 24, only behind Pelé, who scored seven goals.
To crown his night, Mbappé allowed himself one last ride to serve France’s fourth goal to Olivier Giroud, who also equaled Thierry Henry as the ‘Bleus’ top scorer.
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