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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

World Cup talking points, day 17: New kid on the block, South America's dark horse and the best game so far?

All the things hogging the conversation after the latest day of action in Russia 2018

Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates scoring the 3-2 goal during the FIFA World Cup 2018 round of 16 between France and Argentina in Kazan, Russia, 30 June 2018. 
Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates scoring the 3-2 goal during the FIFA World Cup 2018 round of 16 between France and Argentina in Kazan, Russia, 30 June 2018. 

The rise and rise of Kylian Mbappe – new kid on the block

It would be unfair to say that 19-year-old French striker Kylian Mbappe entered this tournament as an under-the-radar player. World football’s most outstanding teenager, the Paris Saint Germain forward has formed a lethal frontline with Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud. Yet, in the lead-up to Saturday’s last-16 match against Argentina, much of the focus was on the world’s best number 10 Lionel Messi rather than Mbappe in the same shirt for France. However, it was the precocious teenager who won the game with two goals and the winning of a penalty in the 4-3 victory.

Mbappe’s run before being fouled for the penalty was an outstanding display of pace and strength, as he punctured the Argentina defence and drew a foul for France’s first goal. To be fair to Messi, two assists from the great man brought Argentina in with a chance. But it was Mbappe, with his flair and ability to carve a line through the clumsy and disorganised Argentinian defence that won the game.

South America’s dark horse – Uruguay

Uruguay impressed in a 2-1 victory over European Champions and Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal. Their strength is in attack with the powerful but deceptively quick Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. However, not enough is made of their backline – centre back Diego Godin marshals a tough unit with speed on the flanks and a plethora of strong passers operating ahead. If you asked observers at the start of the World Cup which South American side would go furthest, almost all would go for Brazil. Yet, in Uruguay there is a dark horse.

They are a dynamic, powerful side that is equally adept at finding space and utilising set-pieces. Argentina and Peru are out. Colombia lack a fully-fit James Rodriguez and Brazil have not really hit their stride yet. In Uruguay there is a South American side in-form and firing on all cylinders – but if Brazil begin to truly perform, very few remaining countries would fancy themselves against the 2016 Olympic champions.

Best game of the World Cup?

Today’s France-Argentina game was probably the most exciting game to watch as a viewer so far. Two of the tournaments most outstanding goals and a score line constantly in danger of changing. Even Andy Murray, Britain’s former number one tennis player, was annoyed to be missing out.