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'A scintillating performance': Kylian Mbappé gave it his all in the World Cup final

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LUSAIL, Qatar — Kylian Mbappe sitting on the bench – legs apart, her navy France jersey pulled up high enough to cover his entire head. Cameras flashed across his face, searching for a tear or two, but that’s what he had to do to escape. Even if it’s only for a moment.

Mbappé finally stood up and took a deep breath. Argentina had just beaten the defending champion The Blues in an epic world Cup penalty shoot-out final after a 3-3 draw in extra time. And it was Mbappé who pushed an otherwise depleted France side into a game that looked like a loss for most of regulation.

Frenchman Kylian Mbappé looks crestfallen after the defending champions failed to repeat. (Photo by Michael Regan – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Trailing 2-0 as the 80th minute approached, Mbappé scored two goals in less than two minutes to force extra time. Then after Lionel Messi He heroically scored in the 109th minute to give Argentina a 3-2 advantage, Mbappé responded with his third goal in the 118th to make it 3-3 and force a penalty shootout.

“We came back from the dead,” said French coach Didier Deschamps.

Highlights Argentina-France

In an epic World Cup final, Lionel Messi won his long-awaited title and France were denied their bid for back-to-back championships.

Mbappé became the first male player to score a hat trick in a World Cup final since England’s Geoff Hurst in 1966. Carli Lloyd did it in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final for the United States.

His daring goalscoring barrage took his grand tally of goals here in Qatar to eight, earning him the Golden Boot of the tournament. Mbappé has now scored 12 goals in 14 World Cup games, just like Pelé decades ago. Former German star Miroslav Klose holds the all-time record with 16, which is the one Mbappe will almost surely break. Probably in four years.

“It was a scintillating, magnificent performance,” Deschamps said of his star. “Kylian really scored that final. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave it as he would have liked, which is why he was so disappointed at the end of the match like the rest of his teammates.”

However, to know anything about Mbappé is to understand that he doesn’t care about individual awards or glory. His performance on Sunday night, which was certainly good enough for France to win, was that of a player with an unwavering refusal to quit.

So when he took the stage to accept the little gold trophy in the shape of a soccer cleat, he didn’t smile. He wore the same downcast, solemn expression when he and his teammates received their silver medals.

Earlier in the tournament, when France beat Poland in the round of 16 after Mbappé scored twice, he was asked what it would be like to finish top scorer. But he shook his head at the question and wavered.

“If I win, I’ll be happy, but that’s not why I’m here,” Mbappé said then. “I am here to win the World Cup.”

France could not do it.

The magical end of Messi, that of Mbappé Paris Saint Germain teammate, finally realizing the one thing the living legend eluded was too big to overcome.

The first 70 minutes of the game were a disaster for France. Argentina is completely mastered and overwhelmed The Blues And even coming out of half-time, it looked like France were ready to surrender.

Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni organized his defense well and controlled France’s attack. At half-time, Mbappé had just 11 touches and France had no shots – on target or off. Every time Mbappé approached the ball, a combination of Nahuel Molina, Christian Romero and Enzo Fernandez the pressure had to be built up.

“Our players were 100% fit, a bit tight maybe,” Deschamps said. “But that’s no excuse. We didn’t show the same energy we had in previous matches. That’s why our first hour or so we just weren’t in the game.”

Then in the 71st minute, Mbappé got his first shot. The ball flew over the crossbar, but it looked like something was brewing.

In the 80th minute, the Argentinian defender Nicolas Otamendi committed an unnecessary fault Randal Kolo Muani in the box. Mbappé converted the free kick to give France a boost.

Then 97 seconds later he scores again after a back and forth with Marcus Thuram led the 23-year-old striker to steal the ball past the goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in the lower right corner.

In added time, France had momentum. Argentina appeared flustered and briefly lost lineup. Messi made a stupid foul Eduardo Camavinga to begin with, players on both sides were exhausted and a little restless.

Then Argentina got a few chances. Lautaro Martinez had back-to-back chances which were fearlessly saved by the French captain Hugo Lloris. The game got tighter and more stressful. Cameras showed French President Emmanuel Macron in a box with his sleeves rolled up.

In the 109th minute, Messi scored and the majority of the 88,966 fans roared. Martinez’s right-footed shot from the right side of the box was saved by Lloris, but Messi grabbed the rebound and exploded in his second goal of the match. Jules Kound tried to save it, but the ball went over the goal line, giving Argentina the lead.

Will Argentina hold out or will France make yet another comeback?

Mbappé assured the latter.

At the 116th minute, Gonzalo Montiel He had a handball in the box and Mbappé scored his third goal from the ensuing penalty.

“It changed things in the blink of an eye,” Deschamps said. “But it wasn’t enough.”

Kylian Mbappé equalizes in the 116th minute

Mbappe’s penalty eventually sent the game into a shootout, which France ended up failing.

In the end, the World Cup final ended in a shootout and Argentina inflicted four penalties on the two Frenchwomen.

The evening ended with Messi and his team-mates lifting the coveted trophy as their loyal supporters, who outnumbered their French counterparts by tens of thousands and turned the Lusail stadium into an on-pitch advantage, waved their blue and white striped jerseys above their heads. .in uncontrollable celebration.

At the start of the tournament, Deschamps said: “Kylian can make the difference in a match on his own.” He did everything he could, so much so that France deserved to win as much as Argentina. The Blues wanted to make history and become the third team to win consecutive World Cup titles.

The good thing for France, however, is that Mbappe still has plenty of World Cups ahead of him. It was only his second. His disappointment in Qatar will surely fuel him, at least until 2026.

“It wasn’t meant to be,” Deschamps said before later adding, “I’m not worried. I’m optimistic about the future.”

As France should be, thanks to Mbappé.

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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman”, released in the spring of 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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