Kylian Mbappe is the youngest player to reach five World Cup knockout stage goals since Pele in 1958.Kylian Mbappe is currently on five goals for the tournament.
Match by match, he is drawing ever closer to the pantheon of World Cup legends.At just 23 years old, he is hoping to win the trophy for the second time on 18 December.
There are plenty of stories still to unfold at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, but the mark left on the 22nd edition of the tournament by Kylian Mbappe is already looking indelible.
On Sunday evening the French forward reminded us all why he is the centre of everyone’s attention and why his name is never far from the lips of pundits and fans.
In scoring a brace against Poland in the round of 16, the Paris Saint-Germain player notched his fourth and fifth goals of the tournament, jumping to top of the goalscorers list.
It is the first time in the history of the tournament that a player has scored twice in the round of 16 of two consecutive editions. In Russia 2018, the boy from the Parisian suburb of Bondy scored twice in Les Bleus’ unforgettable 4-3 victory over Argentina.
“He’s exceptional”, defender Jules Kounde said after the Poland game. “He was superb yet again tonight, with two goals and an assist. But the most important thing is that he always plays for the team, it’s a collective effort.” Mbappe is indeed no solo artist, given that Olivier Giroud’s record-breaking 52nd goal for the French national team came from a neatly disguised through-ball from the vibrant French star.
At 23, Mbappe is at the peak of his powers and has already left behind French legends such as Thierry Henry, Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane with his nine World Cup goals (his five in Qatar added to his four from 2018). Quite simply, nobody has scored so many World Cup goals before his 24th birthday. Not even Pele, nor the great Ronaldo, nor even the top scorer in World Cup history, Miroslav Klose, could lay claim to such a record at the same age.
Talking of comparisons, Mbappe has as many World Cup goals as Lionel Messi, and one more than Cristiano Ronaldo. And with one key difference: the two icons are both the wrong side of 35 and playing their fifth World Cup, while the French star is only in his second. Not to mention that he already has a winners’ medal at home, something that neither of those two legends can boast. So how far can this amazing young man, for whom everything seems so easy, go? Surpassing Klose’s total of 16 World Cup goals seems genuinely feasible given how young Mbappe is. Joining the select group of legends who have won the competition twice also seems within his grasp, given the overall strength of French football.
Anyone who wondered if Mbappe might struggle for motivation in 2022, relative to 2018 when he won the trophy, received their answer from the French prodigy in the post-match press conference: “This is the competition of my dreams”, he stated. “My sole objective is winning the World Cup. That’s my dream, my only dream. That’s why I’m here.”
Nobody can say how far Mbappe can go in his career, or even if he will one day become the greatest player in World Cup history – if indeed it is truly possible to definitively bestow that subjective honour on one player.
What can be said for certain is that just as the names of Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo, Klose or Zidane have become inextricably linked to the World Cup, the same is already true of Mbappe. And he is just 23.