Mbappe marks milestone with another trophy
Vive La France
Published: Oct 14, 2021 04:28 PM
Players of France celebrate winning the UEFA Nations League 2021 final on October 10 in Milan, Italy. Photo: VCG

Players of France celebrate winning the UEFA Nations League 2021 final on October 10 in Milan, Italy. Photo: VCG

The UEFA Nations Legaue ended in dramatic fashion with France striker Kylian Mbappe scoring a controversial late winner.

There were 10 minutes left on the clock with Spain and France locked 1-1 at the San Siro in Milan when Mbappe ran on to a through ball from teammate Theo Hernandez and calmly finished past Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simon. 

The Spain players were furious that the goal stood as Mbappe was offside when the pass was played but the refereeing team allowed the goal to stand after a VAR review.

"The referee said that Eric [Garcia] played the ball and, from that moment, that annulled the offside," Spain skipper Sergio Busquets told Spain's RTVE after the match.

"But that doesn't make sense - Eric tries to cut the ball off because he thinks Mbappe is going to get there because he thinks he's in a legal position. They don't explain that to us.

"You have to try to play the ball and Eric didn't want to play the ball but it escaped his control. He tried to cut it off like any defender would."

Garcia was similarly dismayed when he spoke to RTVE.

"The referee said I had the intention to play the ball, he said I should have stepped aside and let Mbappe control it, which is the rule.

"I think that's what hurts the most - a defender will never in their life step aside [in that instance]. Hopefully, they change that."

The goal stood and Mbappe had secured the Nations League for France, lifting another trophy in an already storied career the same week that he reached another milestone.

Mbappe became the youngest player to reach 50 international caps for France, aged 22 years and 291 days. 

The PSG striker beat the record of teammate Karim Benzema - 24 years 240 days - who scored France's first goal on the night with a sumptuous curling finish from the edge of the box.

Mbappe's winner also came days after he had scored a penalty in the semifinal, an act of redemption for the young striker after he missed from the spot in Euro 2020 as France exited unexpectedly early to Switzerland.

France boss Didier Deschamps was delighted in winning the Nations League. "I'm extremely proud, I'm very happy for the players," he told UEFA after the win.

"It's true that we were in two difficult situations in these two matches ... quite apart from the quality and the talent in this team, we also have this mentality and team spirit."

Deschamps' players also spoke glowingly of coming from behind to win. 

"We showed our character against a very strong team. We never gave up," said Benzema, who had levelled the scores soon after Mikel Oyarzabal had opened the scoring to put Spain ahead in the second half.

"It shows what great teams do - never panic, be patient and wait for the right time," the Real Madrid striker added.

"It was a difficult defeat," Spain's France-born defender Aymeric Laporte said after the match.

"We have proven to be a great team despite our youth, we have shown better football than them, but what counts is the result."

France midfielder Paul Pogba - the third youngest player to reach 50 France caps at the age of 25 years and 8 days - was also pleased with his side's response to going behind.

"We did not get off to a good start we were dominated and waited until the first goal to react," the Manchester United player said.

"We know we have to do better. But if it's the way we have to win, so be it. Winning a trophy is always good. We're always hungry for those."

Trophies have come easy to Mbappe so far. He won the FIFA World Cup with France in Russia in 2018 and he has won several more with his French Ligue 1 side.

And the team will be expected to win more after adding six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi in the summer.

Messi or not, Mbappe has recently spoken out to French media about his own summer, when he asked to leave the Paris giants for Real Madrid.

There had been much speculation over his situation in the summer and Mbappe - like he did with his goal in the Nations League final - has looked to end it.

"I think that most of all, I needed to explain myself. I had to put an end to the silence, and I said that I would do it," Mbappe told French sports paper L'Équipe about all of his recent media interviews. 

"I owed it to the supporters, to football fans and those who read me. I couldn't speak over the summer, that wasn't possible. Now the summer is over, I had to clarify things, and I think now is the right time.

"I stayed and I'm really happy. At no point during the season will you hear behavior along the lines of, 'You didn't let me leave, I'm going to take it easy.' I have too much love for football and too much respect for the club and for myself, to take it easy even for one game. With regard to my situation, we haven't been discussing a renewal for a month and a half, two months, since I said I wanted to leave.

"I've been in football long enough now to know that yesterday's truth is not necessarily today's, nor tomorrow's," he continued. 

"If I was told that Messi was going to play at PSG, I wouldn't have believed it, so you never know what's going to happen.

"We're far from [committing to stay], seeing as I wanted to leave this summer. I'm not going to act like a hypocrite ... This summer my ambition was clear, I wanted to leave and put the club in the best circumstances to bring in my replacement. Right now, my future is not my priority. I've already wasted a lot of energy this summer; it's draining."

Mbappe did not look drained in the international break and whatever is in store for him, there are sure to be more trophies and milestones.
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