France dump Lionel Messi’s Argentina out of FIFA World Cup 2018
Teenager Kylian Mbappe was in devastating form in the heavyweight Round of 16 clash, scoring two second-half goals for France to bring Lionel Messi-led Argentina’s FIFA World Cup 2018 campaign to an end in Kazan
Kylian Mbappe delivered one of the biggest performances of his brief career yet when he scored twice and won a penalty to set up a 4-3 win for France over Argentina at the Kazan Arena here on Saturday. It sent two-time world champions Argentina packing from Russia and booked France a place in the quarter-finals. (ARG vs FRA: FIFA World Cup 2018 highlights)
Argentina’s inability to cope with Mbappe’s pace was evident in the opening minutes when the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) forward caused a few moments of panic in coach Jorge Sampaoli’s backline with his runs on the break.
In the seventh minute as Mbappe ran towards the Argentine goal, he was brought down just outside the box by Javier Mascherano. Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick from 25 yards out hit the horizontal as Argentina heaved a sigh of relief.
Their sense of relief, however, didn’t last long as the speeding PSG starlet was brought down, this time inside the box by Marcos Rojo in the 11th minute. Griezmann made no mistake from the spot to put his side ahead.
Eight minutes later, it was Nicolas Tagliafico’s turn to follow Rojo into the referee’s book as he brought Mbappe down just outside the box. Paul Pogba’s free-kick failed to trouble the Argentina goal but it was clear that La Albiceleste were in for a long evening at the Kazan Arena.
Didier Deschamps’ side took their foot off the pedal in the next few minutes as they allowed Argentina to control possession. But there was little cohesion in Argentina’s game and Lionel Messi struggled to have much of a say.
Blaise Matuidi, N’Golo Kante and Samuel Umtiti took turns to mark the Barcelona genius and France seemed to be cruising at this stage as they continued to counter-attack.
With Griezmann and Mbappe interchanging positions around Olivier Giroud, Argentina’s full-backs kept scrambling to cover their ground.
Then in the 41st minute, Angel Di Maria pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Barely visible in the game till this point, he unleashed an unstoppable shot from outside the box that flew beyond Hugo Lloris into the goal.
Argentina were level, much to their own surprise, and they began the second half with a bit more swagger.
Benjamin Pavard brought down Di Maria outside the France box less than two minutes into the second half, resulting in a free-kick for Argentina.
Ever Banega’s delivery into the box found its way into Messi, whose shot seemed harmless until it hit full-back Gabriel Mercado on its way to rolling into the goal. Two-one to Argentina! Instantaneously, glasses filled with beer, which had made their way into the stands at the start of the second half, were flying all over the Argentine end.
As France found themselves behind for the first time in the game, they changed gears. Mbappe continued to cause moments of unease at the other end and, almost immediately after the game resumed, was fouled by Banega inside Argentina’s half.
Seven minutes later, Griezmann found himself through on goal from a defensive lapse but was unable to get his shot on target.
It didn’t matter though, as a minute late, Pavard equalised with one of the goals of the tournament.
A stray cross from the left had found its way to Pavard. The right-back adjusted his body and thumped the ball from outside the box and with the outside of his right boot. It flew past Franco Armani into the goal.
France were starting to grow into the game and in the 64th minute, Mbappe took a turn on the left side of the box with the ball at his feet to create space for a shot. The effort from his left foot sneaked beneath Armani into the goal.
Four minutes later, France countered down the middle through Giroud who set up Mbappe with an inch-perfect pass to his right. Mbappe’s finish was clean and Armani could do little as France doubled their lead.
A desperate Sampaoli threw in Sergio Aguero and Maximiliano Meza into the mix.
Argentina pushed but by the time Aguero headed in a cross from the right to grab his side’s third goal in the third minute of stoppage time, it was too little, too late.