Kylian Mbappe the history-maker for France as Peru exit World Cup with plenty of admirers
Teenage striker became the first player born after the 1998 World Cup to score in the global finals
History can be made by those who are too young to remember it. Kylian Mbappe was not even born when France won the World Cup in 1998.
Two decades on, he became the first player who was not born when Didier Deschamps lifted the trophy to score a World Cup goal and the first teenager to deliver one for France.
In the process, he secured their spot in the last-16 and eliminated Peru, who have earned more admirers than points with their fervent fans and energetic and eminently watchable football.
Their first World Cup for 36 years will be a brief affair. Mbappe’s first – perhaps the first of several, given his youth – could be altogether lengthier. He was already France’s youngest player in a major tournament. Then he joined an elite group, including Lionel Messi, Michael Owen and Pele, to have registered a World Cup goal before they turned 20.
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Goals of statistical significance are not always things of beauty. This was not. Olivier Giroud’s shot looped up off defender Alberto Rodriguez and over goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. Mbappe had a tap-in. France had a second successive win.
Not without a few alarms, because Peru have stirred with their verve and endeared with their enterprising approach. Their ambition was epitomised when Yoshimar Yotun tried to lob Hugo Lloris from 50 yards. The France captain looked relieved to be spared embarrassment on his 100th cap.
The problem for Peru was that he was rarely tested. There is a subsection of sides in this World Cup who have lacked an end product. Peru are among them. They mustered only two shots on target; just one, from captain Paolo Guerrero, required a difficult save, and his inability to score felt costly when Mbappe struck three minutes later.
Pedro Aquino could count himself unfortunate with a bending strike that clipped the outside of the post but too often Peru’s radar was awry and their aim erratic. They had pressure without penetration.
France had their latest inconclusive win. They were genuinely excellent for swathes of the first half and flat for much of the second. Paul Pogba extended his record of being involved in each of their goals by winning the ball in the move for Mbappe’s winner while the indefatigable, irrepressible N’Golo Kante did the job of two men.
His Chelsea colleague Giroud was another positive as France at least improved upon their mediocre display against Australia. They were more fluent and creative, at least before the break.
Giroud is scarcely the biggest name in the French firmament, but a selfless foil to brighter talents makes others play. Antoine Griezmann, in particular, feeds off the target man and it was telling that the Atletico Madrid forward drew a save from Gallese after Giroud dragged the defence deep to win a header.
Giroud had improved France as a substitute against Australia and, without scoring, exerted an influence as a starter. Mbappe was relocated to the right in the reshuffle but came in off the flank; to fine effect when he struck, though he faded.
Before then, Pogba, Raphael Varane and Griezmann had all came close to scoring in one five-minute period and yet there remains the sense that Didier Deschamps has not found his perfect formula. Blaise Matuidi was crowbarred into the side on the left wing.
France could have done with Matuidi in his preferred midfield role to add solidity in the second half. They prevailed, but they are yet to put together anything resembling a 90-minute performance.
Yet a work in progress have progressed. Peru can only envy that as their seemingly progressive side will head home.
Updated: June 21, 2018 09:57 PM