The football world has stopped to stand and applaud Kylian Mbappe as the French star continues his extraordinary performances at the World Cup.
Still just 23, Mbappe set up a history-making goal for Olivier Giroud and then scored two himself as holders France eased into the World Cup quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over Poland.
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Giroud’s opening goal a minute before halftime was his 52nd for his country, allowing him to pass Thierry Henry and become France’s all-time record marksman.
But this match was all about a man former Socceroo and SBS commentator Craig Foster believes has separated himself as the greatest player in the world.
Mbappe’s lethal strike in the 74th minute killed off any prospect of a Poland comeback and he netted again at the death to move to nine goals in just 11 World Cup appearances.
It’s more than any player has scored before their 24th birthday (Pele held the record with seven), more career World Cup goals than Cristiano Ronaldo and the same amount as Lionel Messi.
Only Just Fontaine, who scored 13 in 1958, has scored more World Cup goals for France than Mbappe.
Germany’s Miroslav Klose holds the all-time record with 16 goals from 24 matches but that mark will surely fall to Mbappe given the pace he is on.
“We were joking before he will do another three World Cups if he stays fit and he will break the record of 13 goals in one World Cup,” Foster said. “He is phenomenal, fans are very lucky to have him.”
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Mbappe, who as a precocious teen helped France win the 2018 World Cup, is the reason they’re marching on to the quarter-finals and are on course to become the first team to successfully defend since Brazil 60 years ago.
“It wasn’t easy because Poland were well organised and tried to counter us,” France coach Didier Deschamps told broadcaster TF1.
“Then there is Kylian with his ability to resolve all sorts of problems, and that’s just as well for us.”
Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz was equally glowing. “There is no recipe to stop Mbappe in the form that he is in right now.”
The fans were happy to sit back and be thrilled as the big screen at one point showed Mbappe had reached a top speed of 35km/h.
But he showed in all three French goals it’s not just his speed that proves decisive.
In the first half, patient build-up play ended with Mbappe having a glance as he received the ball just outside the box before playing in Giroud, who took a touch and finished into the far corner.
Then it was the PSG star’s turn.
An Antoine Griezmann clearance was brought down by Giroud and he released Ousmane Dembele, whose ball into the middle was controlled before being blasted home by Mbappe.
It was an emphatic finish and was followed by another of a similar calibre from a Thuram assist in stoppage time.
“You absolutely run out of superlatives about this player,” Foster said in the SBS studio. “France have got someone who can unlock even the tightest defence. His finishing is world class.
“What a finish. Some of his teammates are even shaking their head in disbelief at what he can do. Not much backlift, but unbelievable power.
“Excellent performance in the end, he just keeps going … that is one of his strengths — his mentality.”
Most goals at World Cups
16 — Miroslav Klose (Germany)
15 — Ronaldo (Brazil)
14 — Gerd Muller (Germany)
13 — Just Fontaine (France)
12 — Pele (Brazil)
— with AFP