Since Pele accomplished the feat at the age of 21, Kylian Mbappe has the opportunity to become the youngest player to win two World Cups on Sunday.
Mbappe, who turns 24 two days after the championship game, is the World Cup’s joint-top scorer with five goals and the face of the sport’s new generation.
The World Cup in Qatar, which is Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s final competition together, unquestionably represents the handoff of the torch from the two athletes who have dominated the sport for almost 20 years.
Messi has one more chance to win the World Cup, but Mbappe and France are hoping to start a new era of domination for a country playing in its fourth final in seven tries.
There were legitimate worries that France may experience the same fate they did as holders in 2002 and lose in the group stage due to a squad devastated by injury and battling for form in the lead-up.
Although they didn’t exactly light up the globe on their way to the final, France has been a master of the crucial moments, displaying ruthlessness and a killer instinct when it counts.
Mbappe, the most feared player on the planet, is largely to blame for this because his goals have propelled France to within one victory of being the first side to regain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.
There is a great connection between the team. We work together but, when you start to come close to the title in this competition you need your main players at their best,” said goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris.
With two goals against Argentina in the round of 16 in Russia, where he earned the best young player award, Mbappe made his international debut in 2018.
Mbappe already has more World Cup goals than Portugal’s Ronaldo or Diego Maradona, and at the age of 19, he became the youngest player to score in a World Cup final since Pele did so at the age of 17 in 1958.
In the 2018 edition, his first major tournament, he scored four goals overall, including the fourth goal that France scored in their 4-2 victory over Croatia in the championship game.
Only Just Fontaine has more World Cup goals for France, scoring an astounding 13 times at the 1958 competition in Sweden.
DIFFICULT TO SEE THE LIMIT’
At the same age, Mbappe has scored 250 goals in 362 games for club and country, significantly more than Messi and Ronaldo combined.
“It’s difficult to see the limit for Kylian. He’s capable of breaking all records. It’s amazing to have a teammate like him,” said Lloris.
But Mbappe’s drive for the French national team is not personal recognition.
“The only objective for me is to win the World Cup,” he said.
“That is what I am dreaming of. I didn’t come here to win the Golden Ball. That is not why I am here. I am here to win and help the French national team.
“This World Cup is an obsession for me, it’s the competition of my dreams.”
Although France has plenty of talent, Mbappe is simply at a higher level.
So much so that Mbappe frequently takes advantage of the freedom that France coach Didier Deschamps has granted him, rarely returning to assist in defense at this World Cup.
It’s also the reason that when Real Madrid appeared ready to wrest Mbappe away from the Parc des Princes, Paris Saint-Germain did everything in their power to keep the striker at the club.
President Emmanuel Macron, who flew out for the semifinal match against Morocco, acknowledged that he gave the striker advice when Mbappe decided to sign a new three-year contract to continue in his own France.
Macron has confirmed that he will return to the Lusail Stadium final on Sunday, where Mbappe will have the opportunity to fill the gap left by Messi and Ronaldo and argue for his first Ballon d’Or.
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