Three years ago France and Kylian Mbappe were on top of the world.
The country had just won the World Cup and the striker, at the age of 19, was named the competition’s best young player, culminating in a scintillating performance to beat Croatia in the final.
Roll time on to the summer of 2021 and Mbappe missed the decisive penalty that saw France go out of Euro 2020 in the last 16 at the hands of huge underdogs Switzerland.
As French daily L’Equipe remarked in a headline on their website: “Fallen from so high.”
For Mbappe, this will surely be a minor setback in what is becoming a remarkable career – but is there a reason why he and his world champion teammates looked so off the pace and are heading home?
Mbappe in ‘midst of a nightmare’
Mbappe came into the tournament having scored 41 goals for club and country last season, including winning the French Cup with Paris St-Germain.
But his Euros campaign was a tournament to forget as he failed to score in any of the four games, with his 14 shots without netting the most by any player to this point.
The 22-year-old had the responsibility of taking the fifth penalty against Switzerland but saw a fairly tame effort superbly saved by Yann Sommer.
Eurosport.fr, in their player ratings, suggested Mbappe was in “the midst of a nightmare”, while Chris Sutton said on BBC Radio 5 Live he had “fluffed his line in the biggest moment and didn’t step up”.
Former England defender Gary Neville said on ITV: “You just knew as Mbappe was walking up. You thought ‘oh no’. He had a couple of moments in extra time but it’s just not gone well for him.
“He has aspirations of being the best player in the world like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi but this is a little bump in the road for him. He will come through it.
“He is having a tough time in this tournament and it’s a tough one for him to take as well as his French team.”
Mbappe didn’t impress the viewing public in the game either – his score of 4.44 on BBC Sport’s Player Rater was above only the 4.33 for defender Clement Lenglet, who was substituted at half-time.
France boss Didier Deschamps said: “Kylian Mbappe is incredibly sad, as are all the players, but nobody can be upset with him as he took on the responsibility of taking the fifth penalty.”
‘There wasn’t any togetherness’
France had lost just one of their last 17 European Championship and World Cup games, that being the defeat to Portugal in the 2016 final.
Such has been their impressive form, 12 out of 15 BBC pundits had predicted France to win the tournament.
“It is my responsibility and I told the players that I assume it,” said Deschamps, who won the 2018 World Cup with France, after the shock loss.
“When France win, merit goes always to the players. When things are less good then it is my responsibility. But that’s the way sport is. You have to accept it even if it hurts.”
Former France midfielder Patrick Vieira was scathing in his assessment of the team, saying on ITV: “The best team deserve to go to the next round and tonight that is the Swiss.
“It was a poor French national team. There wasn’t any togetherness, there wasn’t any spirit. We didn’t play as a team so we didn’t deserve to go to the next round.”