American soccer fans are rightfully excited about the future of wonderteen Christian Pulisic. The 18-year-old is already one of the best Americans plying his trade these days and has the potential to be a central figure and key contributor for the USMNT for potentially the next four World Cups.
Now imagine having two of him.
On a team that could win the World Cup without him.
That's how it feels to be France. 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe and 20-year-old Ousmane Dembele were fantastic for France in a Tuesday friendly with England. The two young superstars are already top professionals in Europe with AS Monaco and Borussia Dortmund respectively, and they continued that success on the international level against England. They connected for the winning goal that got a 10-man Les Bleus side a 3-2 win over the Three Lions to cap off a fantastic outing, the best in their young careers with France.
With their performances on Tuesday, the duo arrived on the big stage for the French national team. And they're good enough to be difference makers for Les Bleus in the year leading up to Russia 2018 and well beyond.
Dembele, the older of the pair, is an attacking midfielder or can play centrally or float out to the wings. He can also be deployed as a forward because of his attacking prowess. At Borussia Dortmund last season, where he is teammates with Pulisic, Dembele made 35 starts and 11 appearances as a substitute, and was one of the most prolific attackers in a squad full of them. He finished the campaign with 10 goals and 18 assists in all competitions.
His greatest strength is his unbelievable pace. Lining up on the right wing for much of the match on Tuesday, he had to deal with speedy fullbacks Ryan Bertrand and Kyle Walker. Without much issue, he burnt them to crisps.
Take in the pace of Dembele because this is Kyle Walker that he is burning you know �� pic.twitter.com/hBRSifLtEk- ㅤ (@LosoLFC) June 13, 2017
But Dembele is far more than a player who can only sprint up and down the touchline. He has the vision and dribbling skill to go with it. On France's second goal against England, a fake shot fooled John Stones into making a sliding challenge in the box. Although Demebele's attempt was saved by Joe Hart, Djibril Sidibe was in position to bury the rebound.
Dembele showing how quickly you can get rid of £50million pic.twitter.com/wjBZjqytie- Mohammed Ali (@mohammedali_93) June 13, 2017
Mbappe, meanwhile, is a natural forward, a goalscorer through and through. He scored 26 times for Monaco last season, including six goals in their run to the Champions League semifinals. He also provided eight assists in Ligue 1. If he's on the pitch, goals are going to flow.
Against England, he provided the match-winning assist to Dembele, and was a holy terror for Hart and the English defense to deal with throughout the rest of the match. He played teammates in on goal with through balls during counters. He danced around defenders to keep possession in the box while teammates rushed to his aid. He wasn't able to put his name on the scoresheet, but he did everything else you want from an attacker.
Kylian Mbappé vs. England- EiF (@EiFsoccer) June 14, 2017
Dangerous all evening and supplied the winning assist. Only missing a goal.pic.twitter.com/Z00xSX1Lrt
Already, the two Frenchmen look like a couple of the best players in the world, and they both have a year of top level soccer under their belts. Whether they stay at their current clubs or move away on big-money moves -- something that seems more probable for Mbappe than Demeble -- they'll improve over the next year, and be even better when France is ready for Russia 2018.
France was already one of the best teams in the world before Dembele and Mbappe broke onto the scene. Last summer, Les Bleus finished as runners up at Euro 2016, and probably were the best team in the field despite a wonderful defensive display from Portugal in the final. That team alone was good enough to be considered one of the favorites for next summer's World Cup.
But Dembele and Mbappe bring an extra element to the team. They bring different things to the table than France's established attackers. Les Bleus have Olivier Giroud's hold up play and Antoine Griezmann's ability to move inside from the flanks. In Dembele they now have a striker who can outrun any defender on the counter, and in Mbappe they have one who can control the box and poach goals. It's no stretch to say France has the best and most well-rounded crew of attackers in the world, and it will take a mighty defensive effort for any team to stop them over the next few years.
Cy Brown writes about soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.