Mbappe is dynamite but the French defence has flaws


Firstly, Merci France, Gracias Argentina for a rip-roaring match overflowing with goodies yesterday.

That is what we came to Russia or our televisions for. Top-notch entertainment.

And while Lionel Messi raged against the dying of the light, Kylian Mbappe shone like the morning sun.

World Cup 2018

The symbolism of the young pretender stealing the crown was an open goal for most journalists.

Mbappe's announcement on the world stage yesterday in Kazan, although he has been dazzling in the Champions League for a couple of seasons, was certainly explosive.

But the Leo Messi comparisons are as daft as those which pit Argentina's No.10 against Cristiano Ronaldo.

Mbappe is not the new anyone, but perhaps a blend of Thierry Henry and (the Brazilian) Ronaldo, combining blistering pace with deft feet and a predator's eye for goal.

At 19 he has so far enjoyed a World Cup as wonderful as Pele's in 1958 aged 17, or more recently Michael Owen in 1998 aged 18.

Pele of course went on to play in three more World Cups, winning two of them to finish with three Jules Rimet trophies.

Unlike Pele, Owen peaked as a teenager. He returned in 2002 and scored twice but his afterburners were not as hot after injuries. In 2006 he limped out of the group stage never to return to the World Cup.

Which of these paths will Mbappe take from now?

Messi could play in Qatar aged 34 and a half in 2022, but his chance of winning the big prize has probably passed. He does not seem to be slowing down like CR7 is but having quit the Albiceleste four years ago, it must be a stretch to picture him at the next World Cup.

He lost but had a good game, providing assists for two of his side's goals and dribbling to effect in the hole of the last third, as he does so well. Argentina also exited with honour, a troubled and below-par eleven whipping up an almighty battle with one of the favourites.

The fact France let in three goals yesterday will provide hope for their forthcoming opponents Uruguay, who boast a superior back line and two razor-sharp and telepathic forwards in Edinson Cavani (if fit) and Luis Suarez.

The French conceded three at home to South American opposition in Colombia in Paris in March and those six goals are proof that quality attacks will breach the French resistance.

Full backs Lucas Fernandez and Benjamin Pavard are often found far upfield leaving gaps behind and centre backs Samuel Umtiti and Rafael Varane are far from error-free.

You cannot argue about their hard-running midfield duo of Ngolo Kante and Paul Pogba or the panoply of talent they have up front, and in Hugo Lloris they have one of the world's best goalkeepers.

But their back four do not measure up to the fantastic four of  Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly, Bixente Lizarazu and Lilian Thuram who won the 1998 World Cup (Frank Leboeuf replaced the suspended Blanc in the final).

Les Bleus' flowing forward play will certainly bring more goals at the other end however, meaning there is a lot more drama to come from their Russian narrative.

France v Uruguay is this Friday in Nizhny Novgorod.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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