Millennium Post

France, Mbappe herald era of high drama in World Cup

Moscow: Over the past month he has been widely acclaimed as a superstar in the making. On Sunday, Kylian Mbappe confirmed that he is already a giant of the game as France beat Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final at the Luzhniki Stadium here.

The 19-year-old netted his fourth goal of the tournament and generally created havoc for Croatia's defence with his clever runs into space and devastating speed, reports Xinhua news agency.

His 65th-minute strike — a whistling 25-yard effort that flew into the bottom corner — made him the youngest player since Pele to score in a World Cup final. The Brazilian legend achieved the feat as a 17-year-old in 1958.

Mbappe's dazzling performances at Russia 2018 also pose a tantalizing question: Is the Paris Saint-Germain forward ready to dethrone Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player on the planet? Ronaldo scored four goals in this tournament but was unable to help his team advance beyond the round of 16. Messi was a shadow of his usual self, scoring just once in an erratic Argentina side that also bowed out in the first round of the knockout phase.

Sunday's match — an often chaotic end-to-end battle sprinkled with moments of brilliance and some horrendous mistakes — was an entertaining climax to a tournament with no shortage of drama.

Even before the final, this was already a World Cup to remember.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino went as far as to say that it was the best of all-time and it is hard to argue. The tournament has been replete with sparkling individual performances, surprise results, dramatic finishes and brilliant goals. The tone was set on the opening day when hosts Russia romped to a 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia, fired by two superb goals from super-sub Denis Cheryshev.

Just 24 hours later, Cristiano Ronaldo netted a hat-trick — including a stunning late free-kick — to earn Portugal a 3-3 draw with Spain in a thriller in Sochi.

There were upsets and early exits aplenty. Defending champions Germany lost to Mexico in their first match and were sent packing before reaching the knockout phase after a 2-1 defeat to South Korea.

Other shocks included Croatia's 3-0 defeat of Argentina and Russia's penalty shoot-out victory over Spain in the round of 16. Football fans were also treated to a plethora of gripping matches. Among them were France's 4-3 round of 16 victory over Argentina; Belgium's tense 2-1 defeat of Brazil in the quarter-finals; and penalty shoot-out victories for England against Colombia, Russia against Spain, and Croatia against Denmark and Russia. As far as individual performances go, it is hard to look beyond Mbappe's explosive display for France against Argentina in Kazan. The 19-year-old tore the Albiceleste's defence to shreds as he became the first teenager since Pele in 1958 to score twice in the same World Cup match. Special mentions also go to Kevin De Bruyne for helping to unravel Brazil in Kazan, Luka Modric for his control and artistry — which included a brilliant long-range goal against Argentina — and Croatia's Ivan Perisic for sinking England in their semi-final by scoring one goal and setting up another.

Then there have been the goals. Nacho's volley against Portugal, Toni Kroos's free-kick routine against Sweden, Cheryshev's long-range bomb against Croatia, Benjamin Pavard's strike with the outside of his boot against Argentina and Messi's deft control and finish against Nigeria are just a few of the contenders for goal of the tournament.

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