France’s Boy Wonder reminds us that he still has a lot of growing up to do.
The 2018 World Cup is long over, but the French team remains in the sporting spotlight, especially the performance of Kylian Mbappe.
Then again, what’s there not to be enthralled about? Be it his humble beginnings from a poor Paris suburb to world Cup star, becoming the second teenager ever to score in a World Cup final after the legendary Pele himself, or winning the Young Player of the Tournament award, Mbappe’s exploits in Russia cannot not be denied, and it’s very hard to imagine France becoming world champions without him.
However, upon closer inspection of his overall performance, you can’t help but to think that he didn’t put in 100 percent effort.
Let’s take trip down memory lane, back to when you and the neighborhood kids played football (soccer) in the schoolyard or soccer field. You had those individuals who lacked skill and were often relegated to defensive roles, as a result; you had the competitive ones who could carry their own and put in the work; and then you had that one overconfident player with the mad ball handling and shooting skills but couldn’t be bothered working for the ball.
Is there any doubt that Mbappe falls into the third category?
The kid is fast, has serious dribbling and striking skills, possess respectable situational awareness and improvisation, instills fear in the opposition but confidence in his teammates, and knows how to score. However, as good as all that sounds, he just doesn’t press for the ball, even when it’s literally by his feet, preferring instead to watch carelessly as every single member of his team bends over backwards to gain possession.
He also doesn’t track back as much as he probably should, letting the opponent run a muck and, therefore, undermining his team’s defensive line.
This lack of effort is captured excellently in football enthusiast and quality YouTuber Piotr Foot’s brilliant analysis of his performance during the World Cup.
Mbappe is very passive — too passive, in fact. Not only does he not challenge the opposition for the ball, but he also doesn’t fight for it when he or his other teammates lose it. In the words of Piotr Foot, “It’s like there is an invisible wall around the defender.”
And then there are his shameful theatrics. He clearly draws inspiration from his idol Cristiano Ronaldo and seemingly wants to one-up Naymar, an deplorable endeavor if ever there was one. The boy is starved for attention — he’s trying too hard.
Now, you can argue that he was specifically instructed to leave the defensive duties for his teammates and stay relatively high so that the team can quickly counterattack when the opportunity arises, but as Piotr Foot notes, that plan was likely devised to accommodate his non-ability and unwillingness to defend.
Make sure to who his four part analysis to get a more comprehensive picture of what Mbappe brings to the table.
France was fortunate that its Boy Wonder’s lack of defensive discipline didn’t cost it the biggest prize in sports, because it could easily have. It’s a good thing that Kante, Griezmann, Pogba, Giroud even, and you know who all went the extra mile to plug the holes.
It’s also a good thing that Mbappe is still a child by professional football standards. Yes, he’s still that brat in the schoolyard with the fancy handles who refuses to press for the ball and goes overboard with the theatrics, but he has many years ahead of him to mature and hopefully transition out of that stage of life.
Refusing to graduate pronto could cost France Euro 2020 and the next World Cup.
What’s your take on Kylian Mbappe?