Kylian Mbappe Stars as France Dumps Lionel Messi, Argentina Out in Thriller


Kylian Mbappe scored twice as France dumped Lionel Messi and Argentina out of the World Cup with a 4-3 win in an outstanding round-of-16 tie in Kazan.

Argentina had come from 1-0 down to lead 2-1 in a match illuminated by outstanding goals from Angel Di Maria and Benjamin Pavard but a quickfire second-half double from Mbappe put France firmly in the driving seat.

Seven minutes in, after a bright start from France, came the first indication of the havoc Mbappe was to wreak when he turned and ran at the heart of the Argentina defence, with Javier Mascherano bringing him down 25 yards out.

Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba stood over the ball and, when the former unleashed a strike at goal, the ball crashed off the bar with keeper Franco Armani beaten before Argentina scrambled it away.

After 11 minutes, Mbappe’s brilliance engineered the breakthrough for France as he embarking on a scorching run from deep inside his own half to the Argentina box, where he was brought down by Marcos Rojo.

After a VAR check had been carried out to confirm the decision, Rojo was booked and Griezmann sent Armani the wrong way after 13 minutes to give Didier Deschamps’ side the lead.

Mbappe was at it again six minutes later when Pogba’s long pass from a free kick deep in his own half picked him out and, after bringing the ball down, he was brought down on the edge of the area by Nicolas Tagliafico, who also saw yellow.

Pogba thumped the free-kick over the bar, and at the other end Ever Banega had Argentina’s first strike of any note but saw his 25-yarder deflected over.

With Lionel Messi spending much of his time wide on the right and coming deep to collect the ball, Argentina were struggling to create any danger and were under threat again as the half-hour approached and Griezmann wriggled free but saw his cross claimed by Armani.

The outstanding Mbappe was then back into the action yet again, Pogba playing him in on the right-hand side of the area but Tagliafico making an immaculately-timed challenge to end the threat.

Olivier Giroud and Nicolas Otamendi both went to ground after a tangle inside the Argentina box, with both able to continue, before Argentina wanted a penalty when Messi went down in a penalty area tangle but nothing was given.

But out of nothing, with 41 minutes gone, Argentina were level thanks to a moment of brilliance from Di Maria who, 30 yards out and central, sent a sublime left-footed strike past Hugo Lloris and into the top corner.

Mascherano was booked for a foul on N’Golo Kante as France tried to get back onto the front foot in a game in which they had been the better side, but the thunderbolt from Di Maria, anonymous up to that point, left matters all square at the break.

Federico Fazio replaced Rojo at the break as Argentina made a change, and within moments of the restart the revitalised Di Maria won the dangerous free kick on the left from which his side turned the game around.

The ball was floated in and half-cleared to Messi, who was able to turn and strike a low shot that deflected off Gabriel Mercado’s foot and bounced beyond Lloris.

Banega was booked for a cynical foul on Mbappe as a stunned France looked for a route back into the game, and Mbappe then played a threatening-looking ball into the Argentina area only for Griezmann to foul Otamendi as Argentina scrambled it clear.

Fazio almost gifted Griezmann an equaliser when, after a Giroud flick, he rolled a careless backpass beyond his own keeper but the striker was unable to turn it in from a tight angle with Fazio appearing to have a handful of his shirt.

But Deschamps’ side had to wait only moment longer before the second brilliant goal of the game brought them level, Pavard thundering home a wonderful angled half-volley from the edge of the box after 57 minutes.

Seven minutes later, France were ahead as a pulsating game took yet another twist and Mbappe got the goal he richly deserved, Pogba’s blocked shot falling to him inside the area and a low shot, after he had made space brilliantly, going in off Armani, who should have done better.

Argentina responded by bringing on Sergio Aguero for Enzo Perez, but they were in desperate trouble after 68 minutes as France opened up a two-goal lead and Mbappe got his second of a dazzling afternoon, latching on to Giroud’s beautiful touch and burying the finish into the corner.

Giroud could soon have made it five, hammering into the side netting after excellent play from Pogba had set him up, and then after a Kante break Mbappe tried to touch the ball on to Griezmann only to get the touch all wrong when he could have shot himself.

Blaise Matuidi and goal scorer Pavard were booked for fouls but the belief had gone from Argentina, even Messi unable to conjure anything that looked likely to get them back into the match.

Cristian Pavon came off for Argentina, Maxi Meza replacing him before France took off Matuidi for Corentin Tolisso and Griezmann for Nabil Fekir.

With minutes left, the brilliant Mbappe was substituted to a thundering ovation, Florian Thauvin coming on but they were made to sweat at the end when, with two of four added minutes player, Aguero nodded home Messi’s pass to give his side a glimmer of hope.

Otamendi and Giroud were booked for their roles in a scuffle that followed a Mercado foul on Pogba as France held on despite a late half-chance that saw Meza deflect the ball over after Aguero and Di Maria had combined.

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