A hattrick then heartbreak / Kylian Mbappe misses out on biggest prize
A hat-trick, then heartbreak – Kylian Mbappe’s night promised so much but ended with probably the worst way to win the World Cup’s Golden Boot.
The France striker will leave Qatar as the tournament’s top scorer after becoming the first man to score three goals in a World Cup final since Geoff Hurst in 1966 – but his main memory will be the pain of an agonising defeat.
At the end of a truly epic evening, the 23-year-old still got to walk up to the victory podium to collect his individual accolade after reminding the world of his immense talent – but there were times when a far greater prize was within his grasp.
This could have been his final, and known as his tournament too, but instead both will be remembered as belonging to another number 10, who also got to hold aloft the World Cup trophy that Mbappe took home four years ago.
It was Argentina and Lionel Messi who ultimately grabbed the glory, but Mbappe lit up Lusail Stadium and it felt for a while like this was meant to be his time, again.
‘We’ve just seen the French president – that boy is king’
Mbappe’s bid to become the youngest player to win a second World Cup since Pele, who was 21 when he did it in 1962, got off to a terrible start.
He was mostly a spectator as Argentina dominated the first half, managing only 11 touches in total as his struggling side fell two goals behind, and things did not initially improve much after the break.
It took until the 71st minute for Mbappe to have his first shot at goal, but the ball sailed high over the bar and, at that stage, there seemed no way back for France.
That all changed when Nicolas Otamendi fouled Randal Kolo Muani as he darted into the box, with Mbappe making no mistake from the spot.
Just 97 seconds later, he made it 2-2, this time in spectacular style when he met a dropping ball in the box with superb volley to bring his side back from the brink of defeat.
“You cannot question the quality from one of the biggest players in the world to get his country back into the game,” BBC co-commentator Jermaine Jenas said as the game went into extra time.
“He’s an absolute superstar. He was just waiting. His team were not there with him but the changes added some energy, some belief into the side.”
More magic followed. Mbappe’s third of the night – his eighth at this tournament – arrived when he despatched another penalty in extra time, again to rescue his team and force a shootout in front of a crowd who by now could barely believe what they were watching.
“We’ve just seen the French President,” Jenas added after the camera cut to Emmanuel Macron. “That boy is a king. A hat-trick in a World Cup final and a penalty stuck away as cool as you like. He stuck it in exactly the same place as the last one.”
Mbappe did not miss in the shootout, either, coolly firing past Emiliano Martinez from the spot for a third time, but like Messi it was the Argentina goalkeeper who was celebrating at the end after he denied Kingsley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni missed.
Mbappe was still France’s hero in defeat, and he was embraced by his team-mates and also by Macron at the end, but this was not the finish he had dreamed of, despite this being a final few will forget.
“It was a pleasure to be here to see it,” BBC pundit Alan Shearer said. “Thank you to Messi and Mbappe. The way Argentina kept going, the mentality they had. Well done and thank you for entertaining us. It was just unbelievable.”
France go back to the drawing board
France’s World Cup defence ended in defeat on penalties, but for most of the game it appeared as if they would be giving up their trophy without so much as a whimper.
Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps had tried to change that before half-time, replacing Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele with Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram, and moving Mbappe into a more central striking role.
“It was tactical because I saw we were lacking energy,” Deschamps explained. “I am not blaming Giroud or Dembele, I just saw they were not 100%. I brought Kylian in from the wing – because I saw we were in deep trouble.
“Basically we were just were not in great shape. Physically speaking we lacked that little extra, but we needed to go back to drawing board and try to change something.
“I always said everything is possible, you can change in a blink of an eye and we did that. We came back from the dead, and made a magnificent comeback – unfortunately it was just not enough.
“It was the World Cup of records and Kylian has left his mark on the final but unfortunately not in the way he would have liked.”