Kylian Mbappe ran circles around Belgium’s defense in the World Cup semifinals, producing a backheel pass that’s already become the stuff of legend.
Frence’s Kylian Mbappe was kept quiet against Uruguay in the quarterfinals after he dominated Argentina in a 4-3 win in the round of 16. Mbappe scored two goals in that match and cemented himself as one of the tournament’s best players and soccer’s budding stars.
In the semifinals Tuesday night against Belgium in St. Petersburg, Mbappe was at it again in the 56th minute.
With his team ahead 1-0, Mbappe set up Olivier Giroud with a spectacular back heel, but Giroud’s shot was thwarted by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois from point-blank range.
Mbappe’s brilliant backheel, following a give-and-go involving Lucas Hernandez and Blaise Matuidi, was one of several plays that had Belgium’s defense in a tizzy all night.
In the end, France defeated Belgium 1-0 thanks to Samuel Umtiti’s second-half header. And while Mbappe showed a few impressive flashes on the break, France’s defenders were the stars.
As well as scoring the winner, Umtiti was superb at the back alongside center-back partner Raphael Varane, keeping wave after wave of Belgium attacks at bay as the clock wound down.
They will contest Sunday’s World Cup final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow against the winner of Croatia-England.
Whichever side they face, they’ll be big favorites, thanks to both their superb defense and a counter-attack led by the lightning pace and skill of Mbappe.