Kylian Mbappé mask drama is just like Clint Dempsey at 2014 World Cup

Kylian Mbappé mask drama is just like Clint Dempsey at 2014 World Cup

Updated Jun. 27, 2024 3:42 p.m. ET

Not many people know how Kylian Mbappé is feeling right now — but Clint Dempsey does.

Punch the story of Mbappé breaking his nose in his first match at Euro 2024 into a time machine, and it would spit out Dempsey’s World Cup campaign from exactly a decade earlier.

The parallels are borderline spooky.

Mbappé’s nose got crushed when he collided with the shoulder of Austria’s Kevin Danso in France’s 1-0 win on June 17. Dempsey’s snout got busted from a high kick delivered by the shin of Ghana’s John Boye on June 16, 2014, after he’d opened the United States’ campaign in spectacular fashion by scoring 30 seconds into the game.


Mbappé has petitioned head coach Didier Deschamps to be allowed to play against Poland on Tuesday (12 p.m. ET on FOX) and try to save France from a nightmare section of the Euro 2024 bracket.


In 2014, Dempsey hopped right back out six days later to take part in the USA’s pivotal Group of Death clash against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, scoring after 81 minutes as the Americans overturned an early deficit to tie 2-2, a result that ultimately secured progression from the group stage.

Mbappé will wear a protective mask that adheres to UEFA’s one-color, no branding regulations.

Dempsey? Well, let’s just say that face-wear wasn’t really his thing.

"I just thought, s--t, I don’t want to look back and have photos of me at a World Cup looking like Batman, or Robin, or Zorro," the former national team captain and current FOX soccer analyst told me by telephone on Monday.

"So, I just thought, screw it. I didn’t feel like it was going to protect me that much. I mean, the nose was broken anyway. I felt like ‘come on, how many chances are you going to get to play in a World Cup?’ If you even play one you are lucky. So, I just went out there."

(Photo by Alex Livesey - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

After sitting frustrated on the bench against the Netherlands, Mbappé looks set to make his return in Dortmund. He has been shining in training, and teammate N'Golo Kanté admitted the 25-year-old captain is primed for the challenge of topping Group D and avoiding a devilishly difficult route to the final.

"In training, Kylian was great," Kante said. "He was decisive and dangerous. I think he feels good, and I hope this translates on the pitch tomorrow."

If France finishes second in the group, it will mean that four of the strongest teams in the tournament — when considering form and reputation — would all be in the top half. Spain (top of the FOX Sports Euro 2024 power rankings), Germany (the momentum-filled host) and Portugal (perfect so far) have all secured their spot in that part of the bracket.

Dempsey said that the restrictions posed by a broken nose are significant and that Mbappé will face some dangers that even a mask can’t safeguard against.

"Those 50/50 challenges when the ball is in the air are the ones," Dempsey said. "Or on a set piece, or in midfield and you can catch an elbow. With my one, it was a kick, I don’t even know how he got his foot that high.

"But in those kind of situations you can’t see what is coming because you have to be so focused on the ball. I’m sure masks are better now, and lighter, so you barely know you are wearing it.

"But a lot of it will depend on how well he is able to breathe. Everyone can see what a competitor he is, and any time you are in a major competition for your country, you know what a special opportunity it is, and you don’t want to waste it."

Remarkably, given its offensive firepower, France is currently tied for the lowest number of goals in the tournament, having hit the net just once — an own goal from Austrian defender Maxi Woeber

If Mbappé can spark an uplift and push Les Blues to top place in the group, the path looks much clearer, as it would face the Group F runner-up — a position most likely to be decided by Turkey’s clash with Czechia on Wednesday.

"The bruise has gone down, he is getting used to playing in a mask," Deschamps said at France’s official press conference. "He wants to play. He wanted to play against the Netherlands, and he wants to play against Poland."

France's Kylian Mbappé breaks nose and exits game

In a further coincidence, the Mbappé incident, perhaps the biggest storyline of the entire Euros so far, has come just as Dempsey is planning to finally get further treatment on his own injury — a full 10 years after it happened.

Whereas Mbappé is expected to get surgery after the Euros, Dempsey opted not to in 2014, figuring that the pain had already subsided and that he might just end up breaking it again.

However, that choice has led to some complications over the years, and he said he expects to "get it fixed pretty soon."

"In the next game, I couldn’t breathe out of one side of my nostrils, the right side, and even to this day it bothers me," Dempsey added. "It is not always a clear path, it affects your sleep at night, the deviated septum blocks the amount of oxygen you can get.

"I probably should have got it fixed up after that World Cup, but I just dealt with it."

If Mbappé's return can help France deal with its current tussle for Group D supremacy, its status as tournament favorite will only be strengthened.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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