France knock out Messi's Argentina in World Cup thriller
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Kylian Mbappé scored two goals in four minutes as France fought back from a goal down to seal a thrilling 4-3 win over Argentina on Saturday and book a place in the World Cup quarter-finals.
The tournament’s first knockout match had been billed as Lionel Messi's chance to reignite the hopes of a stuttering Argentine squad.
Instead, the pulsating last-16 clash in Kazan saw 19-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappé become the youngest player since Pelé in 1958 to score two goals in a World Cup match.
Casting aside the cautious approach from their first three games, France finally found their attacking edge and confirmed their status as one of the World Cup favourites.
And Mbappé, born in the same year that France won the tournament in 1998 when current coach Didier Deschamps was captain, announced himself on the biggest stage.
"It's flattering to be the second teenager [to score a World Cup double] after Pelé, but let's put things into context: Pelé is in another category," he said.
A rollercoaster win
Embattled Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli had promised an "aggressive, attacking" approach from his side after they scraped through the group phase.
But his fears over the superior speed of France's strikers were quickly proven right when Mbappé sprinted from his own half and Marcos Rojo hauled him down, leaving Antoine Griezmann to coolly convert the 13th minute penalty.
Always dangerous up front, France looked to be firmly in control of the game, until Mbappé's PSG teammate Angel Di Maria levelled with a 41st minute long-range stunner.
Minutes after the restart, France found themselves trailing 2-1 when Gabriel Mercado clipped Messi's low curling shot past Hugo Lloris.
But defender Benjamin Pavard's stunning half-volley levelled for France on 57 minutes and, as Argentina unravelled, Mbappé struck in the 64th and 68th minute to seal France's place in the last eight.
When Blaise Matuidi's shot was blocked just after the hour, Mbappé was on hand to restore France's lead with a low shot past Argentinian keeper Franco Armani.
Then the teenager ran on to Olivier Giroud's perfect pass on a France counter-attack to arrow in another shot.
Too quick for ageing Argentina
Despite a late consolation for Argentina when Sergio Aguero headed Messi's superb long cross past Lloris in stoppage time, Mbappé had already well and truly stolen the show.
With France's players boasting an average age of 25, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli admitted their "fast" players, particularly Mbappé, had hit his ageing squad hard.
"They have very fast players who are good at moving from defence to attack, and that's exactly what Mbappé did," said Sampaoli.
"I'm sorry for the result, and frustrated, that's normal. But I can't fault my players,” he added. “We fought hard to get back into it and came close to levelling at the end."
The exhilarating display leaves France brimming with confidence as they head into their quarter-final clash with Uruguay, who beat Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal 2-1 in Saturday's other fixture.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)