While two GOATS crashed out of the world cup, a talented youngster has emerged to take over the mantle.
- Ronaldo and Messi have been knocked out of the WC
- Kylian Mbappe announces himself on the biggest stage
It was that time once again. The World Cup had arrived. The stage was set. The hype was building up. It was meant to be the time when one of the two greatest players of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi would finally achieve the one trophy missing from their immense collection of achievements. Both players have achieved everything there is to win at club level including the UEFA Champions League, domestic league titles and cup titles to name a few. Between them they have won 10 FIFA Player of the Year awards as well. With them both entering the twilight of their careers with Ronaldo and Messi aged 33 and 31 respectively, it was expected to be the last time where both players would potentially compete for this prize. However, it was not meant to be – for either of them.
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Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both eliminated from the World Cup on the same day | Getty Images
On the 30th of June, both Messi and Ronaldo had their teams eliminated from the competition. Argentina and Portugal had taken different roads to reach the knockout phase but neither of the teams looked like they would go on to win it all. While Ronaldo’s form dipped after an amazing opening performance against Spain, Argentina failed to bring the best out of their talisman player Messi. It was a shocking early exit for these two teams considering that Portugal had won the EURO 2016 trophy and that Argentina were runners up at the 2014 FIFA World cup. It just wasn’t meant to be for the GOATs.
Although Messi and Ronaldo, the two icons of world football over the last decade, had exited the World Cup competition, a bright new star had announced himself on the biggest stage, on the very same day. 19-year-old French golden boy Kylian Mbappe has been rising over the last two seasons and it wasn’t a surprise that he showcased his immense potential in the round of 16 win against Argentina.
Right off the bat, Argentina aimed to take control of the game by dominating possession and moving upfield into the French side. But this was what France wanted them to do as they were ready to counter attack with deadly speed. In the 11th minute, the Argentinians lost possession in the French half and Mbappe was away with the ball, galloping away from the helpless Argentinian midfielders that followed him. As Mbappe aimed to burst away from Marcos Rojo, the defender had no options but to drag the electric forward down and conceding a penalty. Antoinne Griezmann stepped up and put it away to give the French a 1-0 lead. Argentina were then able to pull one back with a wonder goal from Mbappes club teammate, Angel Di Maria. They went on to take the lead over the French in before the end of the first half with a lucky touch from Mercado.
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Kylian Mbappe terrorized Argentina’s defense with his speed | Getty Images
The second half popped off with more goals with Benjamin Pavard starting the party by topping Angel Di Maria’s goal with a wonder goal of his own. France’s right back sliced a loose ball from outside of the box. The slow-motion replay showed the ball swing in with heaps of spin which would have been impossible for the Argentinian keeper to reach. Mbappe’s danger once again proved too much to handle as he controlled a cross in the box and worked his way through traffic to shoot past Armani. With France winning 3-2, in the 68th minute they broke away with another counter attack towards the Argentinian goal. Oliver Giroud managed to slip Mbappe through on the right hand side and once again the talented teenager slotted past Armani to make the score 4-2. The game eventually ended 4-3 with Aguero scoring from an assist from Messi.
In a game where a GOAT player such as Messi could not get his team over the line, Mbappe contrasted and proved pivotal for his team. Sure Mbappe’s supporting cast for France included the likes of Griezmann, Pogba, and Kante, but Argentina weren’t lacking in quality either with a squad that included Aguero, Higuain, Dybala and Di Maria. Watching Mbappe brought back memories of a younger Cristiano from back when he used to run at the opposite goal at devastating speed. He made the Argentina defenders look like Sunday league players. It was brilliant to see. It has been a while since a player other than the GOAT players that have had an impact close to this. He was a consistent thorn in the opposition’s back and he showcased the ability to make a difference whenever he got the ball.
A bright future lies ahead for Kylian Mbappe | Vlad1988/Shutterstock.com
With France advancing into the quarter finals, I cannot wait to see how this young lad performs in the next game. After defeating Portugal, Uruguay will be facing France in the next round. It will be interesting to see just how the French stars attempt to unlock Uruguay’s fortress of a defence. If the 19-year-old boy wonder continues to put in performances like these, and potentially goes on to help his team lift the World Cup, I think it’s safe to say that Football will be in good hands when the Ronaldo and Messi era comes to its end.