World Cup’s 2 youngest players have been difference-makers
SAMARA, Russia (AP) France’s Kylian Mbappe and Australia’s Daniel Arzani, the two youngest players at the World Cup with birthdays just 15 days apart, are both having an impact in Russia – in very different ways.
Born after the French won their World Cup title in 1998, Mbappe became the nation’s youngest player to score in soccer’s premier tournament.
”I hope I will have more,” he said.
The striker at the center of the second-most expensive transfer in history had limited chances in France’s 2-1 win over Australia in the team’s tournament opener in Kazan. He improved his play in the second match in Yekaterinburg.
France coach Didier Deschamps was asked following the match for a word about Mbappe.
”One word?” he said.
”I’m happy for him, he’s young and he scored a goal in a World Cup – that’s fantastic,” Deschamps said. ”He’s got great qualities. He’s been able to show his speed and his quick pace and he did what he had to do in terms of team play.”
Among the favorites at the World Cup, the French wrap up group play on Tuesday against Denmark in Moscow. While France is through to the next round and Peru is heading home, Group C got interesting because of Australia’s 1-1 draw with the Danes on Saturday.
Denmark will advance with a win or draw against France, or a loss or draw for Australia in its final match Tuesday against Peru.
Arzani is slightly younger than Mbappe and the only player in Russia who was born in 1999.
He doesn’t have the high-profile contract that Mbappe has – Arzani plays for Melbourne City back home in Australia – but there are already rumors of a move to Europe in the near future.
Arzani has not started in Russia, instead providing the Socceroos with spark and fresh legs at the end of matches. Against Denmark, Arzani played the last 25 minutes with two good chances.
Many expect him to start in the team’s final group match on Tuesday in Sochi. A loss to Peru will end the tournament for the Socceroos, whose best finish at a World Cup was a round of 16 berth in 2006.
Australia coach Bert van Marwijk wasn’t revealing his plans for Arzani.
”Everybody knows he’s a big talent,” van Marwijk said. ”It’s an exception that I nominated him, but I trust his qualities. He has a lot to learn but he’s a very talented and a very intelligent player. I will see what I do with him the next game.”
Arzani said he feels like he’s ready for whatever the World Cup throws at him.
”I’ve tried my hardest and that’s all you can do,” he said. ”It’s up to the boss now.”
AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Yekaterinburg contributed to this report.
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