France coach Didier Deschamps has hailed the rarely spoken about leadership skills he sees in star forward Kylian Mbappe, whose two goals on Saturday night powered Les Bleus to World Cup victory over Denmark and a guaranteed place in the knockout stages.
Mbappe, still only 23 despite this being his second World Cup, had already scored in France’s opening win over Australia. He was then the driving force behind France’s much narrower win against Denmark that ensures they will be in the last 16, even with a remaining group game to spare.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward opened the scoring an hour into the tight game, during which France hadn’t really done enough to test Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
The Danes did get back into it through Andreas Christensen, but Mbappe then went on to score a late winner only a few minutes before the end.
For Deschamps, seeing his star man grab the game by the scruff of the neck and put the rest of the team on his back showed another side to his vast array of talents.
“I don’t think leadership has one face,” the France boss said afterwards.
“Kylian doesn’t speak, he’s not very talkative. However, he’s like a steam train on the pitch. He’s the one that gets the crowd going.
“Kylian has always got the same responsibility. He knows the French team need him and we need him to be at his best. The proof is in the pudding from the first two games.”
Speaking specifically to French broadcaster TF1 straight after the final whistle, Deschamps spoke of the relief that result brings to the squad.
“For us, it’s ideal,” he said. “We have six points so we are sure to qualify after two matches. We will appreciate that before the next game in four days. It brings peace, the assurance that we qualify.”
Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders, Grizz Khan and Jack Gallagher to look back on France ’98 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!