Pele, legends hail Mbappe's artistry

KAZAN • France players, legends and football pundits heaped praise on emerging superstar Kylian Mbappe after the 19-year-old eclipsed Lionel Messi in a match that felt like the passing of a torch to a new generation.

Mbappe's speed and power ruthlessly exposed Argentina's defence in a 4-3 win on Saturday that re-established France among the World Cup favourites.

"Said it before, but Kylian Mbappe will be the next global football superstar," said former England international Gary Lineker.

Mbappe's brace made him the first teenager since a 17-year-old Pele to score twice in a World Cup game and took his overall haul to three.

And the Brazil legend himself took notice.

"Congratulations, @KMbappe, 2 goals in a World Cup so young puts you in great company," the three-time World Cup winner tweeted. "Good luck for your other games. Except against (Brazil)!"

STARRING ROLE

Said it before, but Kylian Mbappe will be the next global football superstar.

GARY LINEKER, former England striker, in a ringing endorsement of the French teenager's talent.

France could potentially meet Tite's men in the semi-finals.

But they will first have to find a way past their next opponents, Uruguay, a team highly unlikely to allow him as much space as Argentina did.

France midfielder Florian Thauvin, who joked that he wondered if Mbappe "was riding a scooter" at the Kazan Arena, is hoping team-mate Antoine Griezmann will be able to give the teenager insight into how to get the better of Uruguay defenders Jose Maria Gimenez and Diego Godin.

Griezmann - scorer of the opener on Saturday after Mbappe won a penalty at the end of a 70m sprint - is a club-mate of Gimenez and Godin at Atletico Madrid.

"Godin and Gimenez... know each other perfectly, they barely make mistakes," Thauvin said.

"The only thing is that they can be a little bit slow, so we will need to find space at their back."

Mbappe's raw pace and lethal finishing were some reasons Paris Saint-Germain made him the second-most expensive player in the world at €180 million (S$286.7 million) - behind club-mate Neymar (€222 million).

While much more is expected of the forward, France midfielder Paul Pogba is confident the prodigy can deliver.

"He's got a lot more talent than me," said the 25-year-old. "And he's not going to stop there. He's got so much talent."

Former England defender Gary Neville agreed that Mbappe will build on his breakout performance on the biggest stage.

"It will be a day like today we will all remember as a defining moment in his career," he told ITV.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2018, with the headline 'Pele, legends hail Mbappe's artistry'. Print Edition | Subscribe