#World-class skills

Kylian Mbappé: Predator in the box

FIFA, 02 Jul 2024


In this article of our world-class skills series, we revisit a player who is the epitome of world class. He creates opportunities for his team-mates and is a merciless goal-scorer, and here we focus on his movement to penetrate the box and his potency in front of goal. The player in question is a chameleon of signature skills: France’s Kylian Mbappé.

A player who regularly produces big moments in the biggest games, Mbappé can erupt into the box or ghost in on the blind side and punish the opposition in the blink of an eye. Alternatively, he can simply shift the ball inside and shoot on goal with pinpoint accuracy. The following footage captures Mbappe`s predatory instincts and Golden Boot winning ruthlessness.

Key insights

  • A master of varying his rhythm to gain a tactical advantage, Mbappé frequently eases off the accelerator and relaxes his demeanour when approaching the penalty area, both with and without the ball. This deliberate tactic breaks the opponent’s rhythm, slowing them to a near standstill and giving them a false sense that they have time to take a breather – a kind of calm before the storm as he looks to carve out a goalscoring opportunity. Then, bang, Mbappé is in on goal and away celebrating before the opposition realise what has happened. It is like seeing the defenders being pickpocketed, reaching for their watches after he has scored.  

  • With stealthy guile and predatory instincts, Mbappé seeks to penetrate the space in the box or in behind the defensive line. He entices his opponents out of position and to over commit or anticipates the slightest lapse in concentration or loss of positional perspective before springing to life. When the opposition are at their most vulnerable, he pounces at breathtaking speed and combines with a team-mate to bypass the defence and then finish on goal with razor-sharp technique. His movement is so quick, timed to perfection and with an element of surprise, making it nigh on impossible for the opposition to react and recover in time. 

  • Mbappé is a defender’s worst nightmare, as they can hardly know what to expect as he arrests their attention. Their conundrum becomes all too apparent as he springs into action like a cheetah  exploding down the channel and providing a sumptuous assist from his left foot (as discussed in the first article in this series, “Kylian Mbappé: Decelerate to accelerate”) or darting into the box and striking a laser guided volley into the bottom corner with his right foot (as discussed in this article). His options seem limitless as he can produce unpredictable brilliance and punish the tiniest errors, heightening the opposition’s anxiety and therefore generating hesitancy and rashness that plays into Mbappé’s hands.

Example 1: In and out in the blink of an eye

Our first example is a give-and-go one-two executed with beautiful timing, a dynamic change of tempo and precise technique – a model of football simplicity and ruthless efficiency. It is a fantastic example of Mbappé slowing the game down to speed it up. On this occasion, he entices the opposition towards him and makes use of a decoy runner that opens the space before exploding forwards and exploiting the opportunity that has been created. As we join the action, Mbappé is approaching the corner of the box with the opposition defenders retreating across it.

Example 2: The opposition are punished before they realise what has happened

Our next clip is another shining example of how Mbappé penetrates space in the box and then punishes the opposition. It is a stunning display of his predatory instincts, technical skill and ruthlessness in front of goal. It also explains why opponents seem paralysed with fear and dilemma when he is high up the pitch on the left-hand channel. We join the action as his team-mate receives the ball in the far-left corner of the pitch, with Mbappé drifting with intent towards the box.

Example 3: What a player, what a goal

Our final clip is an unforgettable moment of World Cup history and a wonderful example of an iconic player stepping up when needed most on the biggest international stage. After receiving two exceedingly difficult passes while under the extreme pressure of the match in question, the magnitude of what Mbappé orchestrates to produce one of the greatest World Cup goals of all time is quite extraordinary. It also involves an ingenious contortion of his give-and-go signature move and is a fabulous example of a player refusing to be beaten and finding a way to get his team back in the game. We join the action as the France no. 14, Adrien Rabiot, moves infield looking to loft the ball into the final third.


A player who regularly produces big moments in the biggest games, Mbappé uses his remarkable footballing attributes and deploys them unpredictably to achieve maximum effect. Both cunning and ingenious, he varies his rhythm, combines with team-mates and erupts into action around the edge of the penalty area to attack the space between opponents or breach the defensive line. His forays into the box are applied to such irresistible effect, and they are so quick, precise and mercurial that they are over before the opposition realize they stated. 

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