An Evening In Dublin With Kylian Mbappe

By Gary Connaughton

Gary Connaughton reporting from the Aviva Stadium

When it comes to the elite of the elite in world football, there is only really a handful of players that can be brought into the discussion. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were a class apart for over a decade, but with those two now coming towards the end of their careers, the door has been left ajar for a new generation of superstar to take up the mantle.

Of those vying for the crown, it seems fairly clear that Kylian Mbappe has the best case. Not only is he probably the most talented and electric player in the game at the moment, but he has also backed it up on the biggest stage by lighting up two World Cup finals before his 24th birthday.

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See Also: Ireland Player Ratings As Kenny's Men Fall Agonisingly Short Against France

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No matter the venue, whenever the young Frenchman steps onto the pitch, you can be sure that most of the eyes in the stadium will be glued to his every move.

While the majority of those in attendance at the Aviva Stadium last night will have prioritised supporting the home team over all else, the presence of a certain forward in the ground made this a truly special occasion.

Welcome to an evening in Dublin with Kylian Mbappe.

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The intrigue around Kylian Mbappe's Aviva Stadium bow started well before the fixture itself. France arrived on these shores on Sunday, with their newly appointed captain speaking to the media ahead of the game against Ireland.

Not satisfied with being the biggest draw in the sport on the pitch, he also emanates personality off of it. Whereas many visiting players in the past have showed little or no interest in the Irish team, he surprised many by speaking about Ireland's recent tactical changes and commenting the progress of Evan Ferguson.

The word 'aura' is something that is probably thrown around a bit too much in modern sport, but from the moment he stepped on the pitch at Lansdowne Road on Monday evening, you could see that it certainly applies to the PSG star.

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France were greeted a smattering of boos when they made their way out of the tunnel. For Mbappe, it was clear that he was just treating this as the latest ground with which he was about to grace with his considerable talents. The nonchalance with which he approached his warmup certainly gave the impression of someone who was ready to put on a show.

Once the referee sounded the first whistle, it was time to entertain the masses.

He has long become accustomed to being the focus of the opposition's defensive game plan, but even he seemed a bit taken aback by Ireland's aggressive approach in the opening exchanges.

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See Also: Didier Deschamps Was Very Impressed With Ireland Despite French Win In Dublin

His first touch after 45 seconds was greeted by a chorus of jeers from the home support, while it also quickly became apparent that Seamus Coleman's sole objective in this fixture would be to keep him as a quiet as possible.

As if the crowd was not already pumped up enough for this fixture, a sequence in the second minute during which Chiedozie Ogbene robbed Mbappe of possession before drawing a foul from the France player was greeted with a raucous reception.

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Reminiscent to the approach of his clubmate Lionel Messi, the 24-year old was happy to use the opening period as somewhat of a feeling out process. He remained largely static on the pitch, often standing in one spot for extended periods and allowing the game to move around him.

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When it came to tracking his opposing number, he showed little interest in doing so. After all, doing the donkey work is not he has become the biggest star in the game.

There were glimpses of what makes Mbappe a special player.

He was well marshalled by the Irish defence, who offered him little space in which to operate. That isn't to say there weren't glimpses of his immense quality.

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In the 12th minute, he delivered a sublime cross into the box, despite being offered no space by Coleman down the left flank. Seven minutes later, we were given one example of what his game is all about.

It was one of those moments that you might not have seen if you were not in the stadium. On the back of an Ireland set-piece, France gathered the ball and attempted to launch a counterattack.

Mbappe was standing in the centre circle, being tightly guarded by Jayson Molumby. The Irish midfielder, who quickly identified the potential danger in the situation, did what most players would and just tried to haul down his opposite number.

It didn't work, with the forward actually throwing Molumby to the ground before setting off on one of his trademark sprints in behind. Thankfully for Ireland, the ball would not find him on this occasion.

There are few sights in football quite like seeing Kylian Mbappe in full flight, especially in the flesh. His acceleration is unlike anything else you will see on a football pitch. It is nothing short of electric.

Luckily for Ireland, opportunities for him to use this skill were few and far between. Kenny's side doubled him up at every opportunity, with Coleman, Ogbene, and Nathan Collins all squaring him up at various stages.

In fact, he grew visibly frustrated as the half went on. He was certainly not happy with France's relative lack of scoring chance, while Ireland's tendency to use up the clock as much as possible was also grating on his patience.

By the time the whistle sounded for halftime, he made sure to have a word with referee Paulo Soares about what he perceived to be consistent time wasting from the hosts. The point was raised once again before the start of the second half, although his mood would pick up considerably five minutes later.

There was a genuine sense of relief from Mbappe when Benjamin Pavard scored the game's only goal. He did not want his his second game as team captain to end in dropped points against an inferior team.

Those frustrations soon returned around the hour mark, with the player throwing himself to the ground from a French set-piece in an effort to win a penalty. His appeals were waved off, much to his amusement.

In truth, he had little impact in the closing stages as France eked out the result on the back of some world class goalkeeping from Mike Maignan.

For those who did make their way to the Aviva in the hopes of seeing a vintage Kylian Mbappe performance, they probably would have left a bit disappointed. In fact, Ireland did a far better job than most of containing him.

He may not have put in one of his best displays, but that didn't exactly take away from the excitement of seeing one of the game's true greats perform at the Aviva Stadium.

Even if he largely failed to sparkle on this occasion, Kylian Mbappe will always be the hottest ticket in town.

SEE ALSO: Ireland Player Ratings As Kenny's Men Fall Agonisingly Short Against France

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