MOSCOW (Reuters) – When teenager Kylian Mbappe netted France’s fourth goal in the World Cup final, thoughts turned to the possibility that the French could go on to emulate the dominant Brazilian teams led by their great striker Pele.
The 19-year-old Mbappe became only the second teenager after Pele to score in a World Cup final as a talent-laden French side overcame resilient Croatia 4-2 to win the sport’s top prize for the second time, 20 years after their first triumph.
Pele did it at the age of 17 in 1958, sparking a period of dominance as Brazil won three World Cups in a 12-year period culminating in a one-sided final victory over Italy in 1970.
While there are growing comparisons between Mbappe and Pele, the Parisian still has a long way to go to even come close to matching the achievements of the great Brazilian.
But the precocious Mbappe could be one of the pillars of a French team with the potential to dominate the world game in the way Pele and his team mates did from the late 50s through to 1970.
Alongside Antoine Griezmann, voted man of the match in Sunday’s final in Moscow, in attack, with Paul Pogba in the midfield engine room and the powerful Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane in defense, France have a firm foundation to build on.
Their World Cup squad had an average age of just over 26 and they have an abundance of world-class players but the way the team negotiated the tournament with intelligence and fortitude gives even greater cause for optimism for the future.
France were efficient, calculating, clever and in command in most of their matches without showing a huge amount of entertaining flair.
In all seven games they played in Russia they had an average of 48 percent possession, doing the hard work off the ball.
Tactically they were able to adapt throughout the tournament and show flexibility — the hallmark of a successful squad.
Their chances of continuing on a winning path are also increased by the fact coach Didier Deschamps, very popular with his players, is staying in the job for at least two more years.
He has a contract until the end of the 2020 European Championship but with such enormous potential to build on he will surely be tempted to extend his reign.
“Today there were imperfections, we did not do everything right but we had those mental and psychological qualities which were decisive for this World Cup,” Deschamps said after the final.
With such qualities, there is legitimate cause to believe there will be more glory-filled days for French football.