France forward Kylian Mbappe put in a performance for the ages in the World Cup final against Argentina, but it proved bitter-sweet as he left the game heartbroken, a hat-trick not enough to avoid defeat against Argentina who prevailed in a shootout.
Mbappe became the second player to score three times in a World Cup final as he dragged his team back from the brink of defeat twice, first with two goals late in the second half.
Having been shut down by Argentina’s defence for the majority of the contest, he exploded into life in the 80th minute, scoring two goals 97 seconds apart before grabbing another equaliser with a penalty in extra time to make it 3-3, reports Reuters.
He also converted France’s first penalty in the shootout, only to see keeper Emiliano Martinez save Kingsley Coman’s shot and Aurelien Tchouameni fire wide. That gave Argentina a 4-2 shootout win and their first world title since 1986.
England’s Geoff Hurst was the first player to score three goals in a final when they beat West Germany 4-2 after extra time in 1966 and he was glad to see another player finally join him on the list.
“Many congratulations to Mbappe, whatever happens. I’ve had a great run,” Hurst tweeted as the game unfolded.
Sunday’s three goals helped Mbappe pip Lionel Messi to the World Cup Golden Boot, top goalscorer with eight goals in seven matches – the most any player has scored in a World Cup since Brazil phenomenon Ronaldo also scored eight in 2002.
However, Mbappe was well short of compatriot Just Fontaine who holds the record with 13 goals in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.
But despite his young age, Mbappe is only four goals away from German striker Miroslav Klose’s record haul of 16.
Just two days shy of turning 24, Mbappe has already played in two World Cup finals and looks destined to lead a young and bright generation of French players for many years to come.
But at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium, the night belonged to his Paris St Germain team mate Lionel Messi, whose heart Mbappe helped to break four years ago in Russia when France knocked out Argentina 4-3 to win in another epic match in the last 16.
Mbappe was only 19 then and it is mind-blowing to think that his peak is still ahead of him.
Every match he seems more confident, more poised, more in control, more unstoppable with his jet-heel speed and pin-point accuracy – terrifying even the best defenders.
French President Emmanuel Macron went down to the pitch to comfort the disconsolate young superstar who is already a national treasure, giving him a long hug.
Mbappe’s hat-trick at the end of his outstanding tournament will not erase the pain of losing to Argentina, but in time he will surely look back with pride.
“I’m sad for Kylian, who had a more than perfect game,” said Paris St Germain president President Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
“If it had been me, I would have given two cups – one for Kylian, one for Leo. He (Messi) deserves it and Kylian still has years to win a World Cup again.”
It may have been Messi’s night. But unlike him, Mbappe has much of his career yet to come.