France 4 – 3 Argentina, Highlights:

By being the most talented teenage footballer comes pressure, but with it comes the gift of making defenders look slow, and slow defenders look ridiculous. But at the end, last night was about bigger things than the first half demolition of Marcus Rojo. Kylian Mbappe had shattered the dreams of one of the greatest.

Mbappe’s incredible turn of pace that won France the penalty in the first half, saw him flash before our eyes just like the career’s of the host of defenders and midfielders he left behind. At the other end of the pitch, Lionel Messi tried all that he could to survive yet another opponent but was left stranded most often, Sampaoli playing him in a false nine role.

It would be woefully wrong to say that this match saw the passing of the baton from Messi to Mbappe, as it can only be said if someone is capable of dominating the opposition for more than a decade. But you can, however, imagine the reluctant acceptance in Messi as he led youngsters like Enzo Perez and Meza to compete with a talented generation of young Frenchmen with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Osman Dembele who by the way didn’t even feature.

Messi has however done his best for his squad that was considered poor led by a head coach whose attitude towards playing attacking talent has only seemed to decline with time. Perhaps Messi’s last act as an Argentina international was to stroke the cross on to the head of Sergio Aguero at the back post for an Argentina goal that narrowed the margin to closer than it should have been. If he has to win the World cup and end the argument of who’s the greatest of all time, then he will have to do it in Qatar at the age of 35, which is not impossible but he will have to surround himself with teammates who have the same will and vigour as he does and individuals who are capable of winning the tournament as a team.

But this match wasn’t about Messi’s fairy-tale story but it was about the start of another, the story of a 19-year-old sensation who stood out when the best players didn’t. No teenager since Pele in 1958 has scored more than one goal in a World Cup match, but Mbappe wisely avoided comparisons afterward. “Let’s put this in context,” he said, “Pele’s another category”. His arresting talent will take him a long way and one day he may, like Messi, play in four World Cup finals. Although the one thing he will not be able to control in ten years’ time is whether the players around him are up to the task.

Key Stats:
1. France has qualified for two consecutive Quarter Finals for the first time.
2. Argentina are the first team to score at least three goals but still lose a World Cup match since the USSR vs Belgium in 1986 (3-4).
3. There were eight yellow cards in this match, equalling the most shown in a single game so far at the 2018 World Cup (also Belgium vs Panama).
4. This was just the fifth time Argentina have conceded 4+ goals in a World Cup match, and first since losing 0-4 to Germany in the 2010 quarter-final.
5. France scored with all four of their shots on target in this match. They’d scored three goals from 12 shots on target in the group stages.


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