No other player in modern times has captured hearts and minds worldwide as much as France's brilliant Kylian Mbappe. This African origin star has become the toast of not only France but all soccer lovers around the globe.
France was already en fete. The tricoleur flags, the bunting and the jubilation were in place from the celebrations of Bastille Day the day before. Crowds had been out on the streets once that weekend and were ready to go there again in even greater numbers. This time however, there was to be a new motto. From the afternoon of Sunday 15 July 2018 the chant was Liberte, Egalite, Mbappe.
Has any teenage footballer shown such elan, and received such instant recognition, at the highest international level as has Kylian Mbappe, the 19-year-old Parisian son of African parents? Well, yes, there was one, exactly sixty years earlier--but more of him anon. This outpouring from the French soul, however, and by the international football community, has been unique in its generation.
Something special was expected from France in this World Cup--particularly from Mbappe, whose achievements from a young age have been linked with those of the great French players of the recent past. Les Bleus had struggled to impress in the opening game against Australia. Then Kylian got into his stride.
He hit his first World Cup goal in the 1-0 win over Peru, becoming the youngest scorer for France in the tournament's history, and found the net twice against Argentina. After ousting the brilliant Belgians in the semi-final, the French were ready to meet the very competitive, and even more combative, Croatians in a showdown which has been called the "final that had everything".
France came in at half-time 2-1 ahead in front of over 78,000 fans at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, and hundreds of millions watching on screen throughout the world. Yet involving, as it did, a Croatian own goal and a disputed penalty, the scoreline was not entirely satisfactory.
That all changed in the second half. Mbappe was involved in the superb passing movement started by Paul Pogba in the 59th minute, which ended with that same player scoring spectacularly. Just over six minutes later Mbappe drove home a 25-yard shot which sealed the triumph. It has passed into memory as the goal of the game, of the tournament and of legend. He is the youngest player to score for France in a World Cup final and received the Best Young Player of the competition award.