Mith a very confident grin on his face, Kilian Mbappé left the Stadion 974 after his first big coup of this World Cup tournament, the French striker is obviously on the way to the next peak of his footballing life.
Of course, he was named “Player of the Game” and awarded the corresponding trophy by the beer sponsor, who, as is well known, is not allowed to sell beer at the stadium.
Mbappé proudly carried the shimmering red trophy into the bus, he no longer wanted to speak. But he had given his audience enough even without words on this warm winter night on the Persian Gulf.
Like Zinedine Zidane, Mbappé has now scored 31 goals for the Équipe Tricolore, aged 23, after scoring twice in the holders’ 2-1 win over Denmark. However, it is probably even more important for him that his team really gets going.
After two wins, the French are early in the round of 16. “It was a very good performance, I’m very proud,” said coach Didier Deschamps, who replied when asked about Mbappé’s performance: “He’s an extraordinary player, but he’s also part of an extraordinary team.”
The effort to steer the public’s focus away from Mbappé towards the collective could not be ignored, but it was a pretty hopeless endeavor after this game. Because the World Championship is well on its way to producing its first major tournament hero.
Neymar has been injured for the first time, Lionel Messi has to worry about participation in the round of 16 with his Argentines after the 2-0 win over Mexico, Mbappé, on the other hand, is in top form in a strong team. “He did well. He’s crucial in almost every game,” said Olivier Giroud.
For the time being, the Paris St. Germain forward is joint-top scorer with Eucadorian Enner Valencia after scoring with a header in the 4-1 win over Australia.
That evening he scored once with the right (61st) and once with the thigh (86th), the principle behind it seems surprisingly simple. “We know his qualities very well, we know that he can make the difference for us. If we put him in a good position, he will do the rest,” said defender Raphael Varane.
It even worked against these very strong Danes, who had won against France twice in a row in the Nations League before the World Cup. Mbappé is so strong that the losers had little choice but to rave: “It’s a privilege every time to play against him,” said right-back Rasmus Kristensen.
However, coach Kasper Hjulmand’s team not only managed to make it 1-1 (68′, Andreas Christensen), they also had a few other good chances. Denmark contributed a lot to the excellent overall level of the game, which in the end was decided by the defending champions’ offensive brilliance.
Ousmane Dembélé, who gave Mbappe a wonderful chance in the first half (40′), played splendidly for an hour before finally breaking something. Antoine Griezmann not only prepared the winning goal, he also functioned as part of a very harmonious collective. “I’m very proud but it’s a teamwork,” Griezmann said after matching a Zidane record just like Mbappe. Like the legendary 1998 world champion, Griezmann has now assisted 26 goals with the national team.
So it wasn’t just about Mbappé, which is important to the French. For the moment, they seem to have developed quite a good atmosphere in the team, with Mbappé in the role of a rather quiet leader. “There are different forms of leadership,” said Deschamps, and Mbappé is not someone who talks a lot. In return, he gives his colleagues the feeling of “always wanting to give everything for the team.” Again, the attempt to put the team spirit above the hero cult without slowing down the superstar was recognizable. So far this balancing act seems to be working well.