Paris (AFP) – Teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe warned he is “not a saviour” ahead of France’s crucial trip to Bulgaria in their penultimate 2018 World Cup qualifier on Saturday.
The 1998 world champions lead Sweden by one point in Group A with two matches to play, but France need little reminding of the pain inflicted upon them by the Bulgarians in one of the national team’s darkest hours.
Coach Didier Deschamps was part of a France side that — needing just a point at home to qualify for the 1994 World Cup — was stunned by Emil Kostadinov’s 90th-minute winner that sent Bulgaria to the finals at Les Bleus’ expense.
Deschamps’s current crop of players require victories in Sofia this weekend and at home to Belarus on October 10 to guarantee their place at next year’s World Cup in Russia.
But the Euro 2016 runners-up have little margin for error following an embarrassing 0-0 draw against minnows Luxembourg in Toulouse in their most recent outing.
“It’s a really important match, we have to go to Russia. It’s more than a goal, it’s a fact,” said Paris Saint-Germain striker Mbappe, who wasn’t born until five years after the Bulgaria fiasco.
“No that means nothing to me. I don’t know,” the 18-year-old grinned when asked if the name Kostadinov was of any significance to him.
“Mentally we’re getting ourselves ready to go to war,” he added. “Along with that of PSG against Bayern, it’s the most important match. It’s even more important because it’s an entire country, so yes it’s the most important match since the start of the season.”
But Mbappe, who scored his first international goal in August’s 4-0 demolition of the Netherlands, insisted he was merely a part of the puzzle for a French squad brimming with youthful talent.
“(I’m) not a saviour because there will be 11 of us on the pitch. That people expect more of me is normal. When you have good players, it’s normal that to expect us to make the difference.
“We have a quality group with lots of players. There’s no one player who makes the difference. The pressure is something I love. It gets me going, it’s a source of huge pride to be able to rise to tougher and tougher challenges.”
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