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The World Cup belonged to Kylian Mbappé

With each game, the 19-year-old France attacker got better. In the final, he shone.

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

When Kylian Mbappé lined up that shot on his right foot in the World Cup final, I thought he was sending it to the far post. That would be the obvious thing to do — try to curl it around the keeper, shape the shot.

Mbappé didn’t do that. He wrapped his foot around the ball instead, rocketing in a shot at the near post and giving his team a 4-1 lead in a match they’d eventually win, 4-2. That shot fooled me. It fooled Croatia keeper Danijel Subasic. It was another little moment of brilliance in a tournament that was full of them, a surprising decision from someone with a deep understanding of the game.

Mbappé is 19 years old, though. He’s not supposed to have that deep understanding of the game yet. He’s not supposed to be able to collect a ball 27 yards out with tens of millions of people watching, then trick the defender and goalkeeper (and also those tens of millions of people watching) while simultaneously hitting the ball so pure it bombs into the bottom corner.

That’s what has been such a revelation watching Mbappé this World Cup. Many soccer fans understood how special a player he was coming in. Already a breakout star at PSG, the 19-year-old has all the physical gifts you’d ever want in a player. He’s breathtakingly fast and has a beautiful touch and can hit a ball pure.

But 19-year-old people aren’t supposed to do this. They aren’t supposed to get it like Mbappé does. He sees the game as well as anyone. Most 19-year-old players have energy and enthusiasm and are clueless because all 19-year-old people are clueless.

People who are 19 aren’t supposed to be able to do this:

Throughout the World Cup, Mbappé kept getting better. It was against Argentina that you saw him figure it out — He realized, Wait. No one can stop me. It was a magnificent thing to observe. A teenager coming to grips with the fact that this need not be overwhelming, that he’s not only good enough to hang in a World Cup, he’s better than everyone else.

With each match, the confidence grew. And it all came to a head with that shot. A 19-year-old kid getting a ball on his right foot, and realizing he knew what to do in that situation. That it wasn’t that hard for him, even though that shot is just about impossible for anyone else alive. He wrapped his foot around the ball, and that was that. He was here, already, at 19. Who can possibly stop him going forward?