DOHA, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Kylian Mbappe’s meteoric rise showed no sign of stopping as the France forward sealed the holders’ 2-1 win against Denmark to send them into the last 16 of the World Cup on Saturday.
Mbappe, who will celebrate his 24th birthday two days after the Dec. 18 final, took things into his own hands at the 974 Stadium with two goals after the break, even though he might have been a tad too selfish in the first half.
None of that mattered when he opened the scoring with a bouncing first-time finish from Theo Hernandez’s cut-back after a one-two with the defender and even less so when he got the winner with his thigh off Antoine Griezmann’s cross.
Mbappe has now scored 31 goals in 61 appearances for France – well on the way towards the all-time record of 51 held by Olivier Giroud and Thierry Henry.
He ranks seventh in the list of France’s scorers on a par with the great Zinedine Zidane.
Mbappe has seven goals at World Cup tournaments – only behind Just Fontaine, who scored a record 13 in 1958, and already ahead of Henry’s six in four visits to the finals.
“Kylian is an outstanding player. I’ve already said it several times, he has this ability to be decisive, to make the difference,” coach Didier Deschamps told reporters.
“Kylian does everything to perform well and that’s what he did in the first two games. It’s good for us.”
With Olivier Giroud playing as a lone striker in the absence of the injured Karim Benzema, Mbappe has the space he craves on the left flank and he made the most of it to score in three consecutive World Cup games going back to 2018.
“But the fact of having other players around him who bring danger allow him to be a little more free. He is part of a collective that is very strong and has this goal of winning the World Cup in mind,” Deschamps added.
For the first goal, he benefited from fullback Hernandez’s threat on the left wing to pounce after their one-two.
Mbappe may often hide at the back of the group during training session warm-ups in Qatar but the forward certainly bursts into the limelight on match days.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris
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