Teenage forward Kylian Mbappe has been rewarded for his scintillating club performances with Monaco with his first call up to France’s national team.
The 18-year-old Mbappe, whose speed and skills have led to comparisons with France great Thierry Henry, was included Thursday in coach Didier Deschamp’s squad for a World Cup qualifier in Luxembourg and a friendly against Spain.
Deschamps called up three other newcomers in his list of 24 players: Monaco defender Benjamin Mendy, Marseille winger Florian Thauvin and highly-rated Lyon midfielder Corentin Tolisso.
Mbappe made it 11 goals in 11 games when he scored in a 3-1 win on Wednesday as Monaco eliminated Manchester City on away goals to reach the Champions League quarterfinals. He had scored in the first leg and so far this season has netted 17 goals.
“Quality has no age,” Deschamps said. “Other youngsters came before him. I thought it was the right moment.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger recently said he could see similarities between Mbappe and Henry, who also played for Monaco when he was young. Wenger tried to recruit Mbappe in the offseason but the rising star of French soccer – who helped France win the under-19 European in July, scoring five goals – decided to stay in Monaco.
“I think Kylian is already very mature. He is capable of keeping his head clear in every decision he makes,” Deschamps said. “This coolness in one-on-ones with goalkeepers is very rare.”
Mendy, a left back who is Mbappe’s teammate at Monaco, was also called up for the first time. Mendy was inspired against City on Wednesday, setting up the second goal of the game and combining well down the left flank with Thomas Lemar, who is also in the squad.
France will be without the suspended Paul Pogba for its trip to Luxembourg for a World Cup qualifier on March 25 in Group A, which the French lead by three points. France hosts Spain at the Stade de France three days later.
Despite 22 league goals for Lyon this season, striker Alexandre Lacazette was again overlooked while Manchester United forward Anthony Martial, who is recovering from injury, was also left out.
Lacazette has not played for France since October 2015. His continued omission is particularly baffling considering has 28 goals in all competitions, including several brilliant strikes from outside the penalty area _ such as during last week’s 4-2 home win over Roma in the Europa League.
“It was a very difficult choice. He needs to carry on, even though he must be disappointed,” Deschamps said. “There’s nothing to stop him from coming back.”
But given that Deschamps places such high regard on unselfish team play, it appears even stranger to overlook the hard-working Lacazette, who regularly tracks back and is also an unselfish passer. Deschamps included him in his provisional squad for last year’s European Championship, but cut him from his final squad.
Lyon midfielder Corentin Tolisso and Marseille winger Florian Thauvin were rewarded for their fine form and will be hopeful of making their debuts.
Thauvin has been Marseille’s most consistent player; a far cry from when he struggled for Newcastle in the Premier League last season. He has already matched his career best tally of 10 league goals, and is developing a knack of scoring with curling shots from outside the area.
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain), Benoit Costil (Rennes), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
Defenders: Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Layvin Kurzawa (Paris Saint-Germain), Benjamin Mendy (Monaco), Adil Rami (Sevilla), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona)
Midfielders: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Paris Saint-Germain), Corentin Tolisso (Lyon)
Forwards: Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund), Kevin Gameiro (Atletico Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Monaco), Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)