In any team sport, the best you can ask for in a tense contest is your best player getting a chance with the game on the line. This is exactly what happened to France when its 22-year-old superstar, Kylian Mbappe, stepped to the penalty spot in a round of 16 shootout versus Switzerland.
However, Swiss keeper Yann Sommer saved Mbappe’s shot, knocking France out of the tournament. This failure is the first major black mark on the resume of the young soccer star, and it makes Euro 2020, the world’s second-most prestigious international tournament, much more compelling.
Kylian Mbappe is the best soccer player in the world under 25
Any list of the best and most well-known word footballers includes names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. Right behind them, and at the very top of any list of best young players, is Mbappe.
The forward started his career with Monaco in France’s Ligue 1 before making a $159.5 million move to his hometown club, Paris Saint-Germain, per Transfermrkt.
At the 2018 World Cup, the France National Team defeated Croatia to win its second World Cup trophy. This was Mbappe’s coming-out party on the biggest stage. He played in all seven matches tallying an assist and scoring four goals, including the last goal of the tournament that assured the victory for his homeland.
Going into Euro 2020, a tournament featuring several great young players, Mbappe was the one to watch. His talent helped make France the tournament’s betting favorite, but he didn’t quite live up to the hype in the Group Stage. The center-forward played decently in the tournament’s first three games and helped France win the group but only produced two assists and no goals in those matches.
Winning its group, France got a round of 16 matchup against the third-place team in Group A, Switzerland. The game should have been a walk for Mbappe and France but turned into an instant classic instead.
Mbappe failed to convert a penalty with the match on the line
The heavily favored French side went down 1-0 in the 15th minute when Swiss forward Haris Seferovic headed a ball past France keeper Hugo Loris. Switzerland almost put the game away early in the second half, but Ricardo Rodriguez couldn’t convert a penalty.
France answered with a flurry, scoring the next three goals. The rally started with once-exiled French striker Karim Benzema scoring twice within four minutes of Loris’ penalty save. Then, in the 74th minute, Paul Pogba scored what might be the goals of the tournament from way outside the 18-yard box.
The Swiss stayed undaunted, despite the onslaught from the World Cup champs. Seferovic headed in his second in the 81st minute to give his team life. Officials called off a possible match-tying goal from Switzerland offside in the 85th minute, but substitute Mario Gavranovic scored with 15 seconds left in regular time to even the score for real.
Following 30 minutes of scoreless extra time, the game went to a penalty shootout. After four consecutive makes from France and five from Switzerland, Mbappe stepped to the spot. He missed a few huge chances throughout the contest, including at the end of extra time, but French fans had to feel confident with their best young player at the spot.
Mbappe went to his left (Sommer’s right) just like the two right-footed teammates who shot before he did. He didn’t get the ball high enough or far enough out towards the post, and Sommer guessed correctly and blocked it, winning the game for the Swiss.
UEFA Euro 2020 is wide open with defending Euro, and World Cup champions out
The defending World Cup side’s exit came 24-hours after the defending Euro winners, Portugal, crashed out to Belgium, 1-0.
Six of the final eight teams have punched their tickets as of Monday night, with only England or Germany and Ukraine or Sweden left to make a date in the next round. In the quarterfinals, the winner of these two matches will meet, as will Italy and Belgium, Switzerland and Spain, and Denmark and the Czech Republic.
With the last two major tournament winners out, the field is wide open. England, Germany, Italy, and Belgium were also among the favorites when the tournament started June 11 but, by the middle of next week, at least two of those teams will be out as well.
The result will be a Euro 2020 winner that hasn’t won a major tournament in at least six years and maybe longer. It also means that, even without some of the world’s biggest stars like Kylian Mbappe, the intrigue and drama should increase exponentially as we march toward the final on July 11.
All stats courtesy of Transfermrkt