France Ends Argentina’s Adventure in Russia

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  • Magnificent Mbappe scores brace to end Messi’s World Cup dream

Duro Ikhazuagbe and Ademola Ojo in Russia

The 2018 World Cup title dream for Argentina in Russia is over. Paris Saint Germain teenager, Kylian Mbappe, scored twice Saturday as France defeated Argentina 4-3 to book a quarter-final ticket.

The 19-year-old Mbappe became the first teenager to score two goals in a single World Cup match after legendary Pele did so for Brazil against Sweden at the 1958 edition.

La Albiceleste dream that was reignited with last Group D victory over Nigeria in St Petersburg last Tuesday was effectively doused in the seven-goal thriller at the Kazan Arena in Russia.

The Monaco forward who is on loan at PSG was clearly the dominant Number 10 figure of the evening as Argentina’s five-time world player of the year, Lionel Messi, was made anonymous.

Argentina’s ageing defence found it very difficult to cope with the pace of the combination of Mbappe and Atletico man, Antoine Griezmann.

Central defenders Marcos Rojo and Nicolas Otamendi were simply not remotely equipped to cope and when Ever Banega offered up possession to the PSG player in the game’s 13th minute, he exploited the opportunity with a devastating acceleration.

Mbappe eased past the ageing Javier Mascherano and had done the same to Rojo when the defender brought him down with something little less than an assault which began outside of the goal area and ended inside.

Griezmann stepped forward to slot the penalty into the left side of Franco Armani for France’s first goal of the evening.

Argentina looked unable to reply for much of the first half, until Angel di Maria hauled his side level with a stunning long-range curler shortly before the break.

On return from the half time break, Gabriel Mercado diverted Messi’s shot past Hugo Lloris in goal for France to give the South Americans the lead.

But Benjamin Pavard of VFB Stuttgart’sstunning strike levelled the scores again, and 11 minutes later Mbappe had scored twice – two clinical finishes that ensured the 2014 beaten finalists would be going home at the last 16 stage.

In barely one week, the two finalists at the last edition in Brazil have been sent home to set the stage for new champions to emerge here in Russia.

The winners truly deserve their quarter final ticket as it was the balance in the French side which made them look so fundamentally superior to the South Americans who struggled right from the group stage. Chelsea man, Ngolo Kante, was the heartbeat of a secure midfield. Paul Pogba was the axis between defence and attacking movement, even though his first half ball retention was not impeccable. And the French defence looked absolutely resolute.

Substitute Sergio Aguero got a late consolation Argentina for with a low header from a pin-point Messi cross in the 93rd minute.

Argentina Coach Jorge Sampaoli who is likely to face the backlash of the Albiceleste failure in Russia when the team gets back to Buenos Aries, cut the picture of a sad man at the post-match conference.

“This is very painful, especially because the players have made a huge effort. It was a very difficult game but we have not achieved our goal here in Russia,” observed the gaffer who was almost sacked after Argentina drew the first game against Iceland and got beaten 3-0 by Croatia but got a lifeline from Nigeria to qualify for the Last 16.

“I’m sad, I’m frustrated – I think that’s quite normal. For me, the fact of being here and being able to be where means I won’t decide my future today,” he stressed of his future with the Albiceleste.