In an incredible game, France ultimately defeated Argentina in the Kazan Arena. Despite a late Argentine resurgence, the formidable attack of France ensured their victory and subsequent progression to the quarter finals. Argentina, however, exit the tournament after an underwhelming overall performance.
France- Griezmann 14′(p), Pavard 58′, Mbappe 64′, 68′
Lloris, Hernandez, Umtiti, Varane, Pavard, Kante, Pogba, Matudi (Tolisso 74′), Griezmann (Fekir 83′), Mbappe (Thauvin 88′), Giroud
Argentina- Di Maria 41′, Mercado 48′, Aguero 90+3′
Armani, Rojo (Fazio 45′), Otamendi, Pavon (Meza 74′), Mercado, Tagliafico, Banega, Perez (Aguero 66′), Mascherano, Messi, Di Maria.
The opening minutes of this momentous fixture were, remarkably, fairly balanced. Both sides enjoyed various half-chances, with each team looking equally dangerous. Surely in such an important fixture, these teams could put their lackluster opening matches behind them. The first real chance of the game came when Antoine Griezmann’s free kick rattled the crossbar, after the set-piece was awarded for more questionable Argentine defending.
It seemed that poor Argentine defending would be a theme for this game. This was clearly evident as Kylian Mbappe made a dangerous run into the box, before Marcos Rojo pushed the 19 year old in the box, giving away a penalty. Antoine Griezmann calmly slotted his shot into the bottom right corner, giving France the lead. Argentina now needed to urgently up their game if they wanted to make it anywhere near the next round.
As has been the story with Argentina’s previous games, their defense seems to be their overlying weak point. They, again, are too willing to allow dangerous French runs down their wings. In the opening half an hour, every significant chance fell to Les Bleus. Argentina desperately need to find a a way to break down this French team, or else they could find themselves in trouble.
Argentina certainly made the most of their first chance, however. Angel Di Maria, who has been fairly non-existent in this tournament so far, brilliantly powered a shot from outside the box into the top left corner. Hugo Lloris had absolutely no chance in stopping this goal of the tournament caliber strike. Game on.
That’s all she wrote for the first half, in a very entertaining game so far. France certainly seem to be the better team in the opening 45 minutes, however Argentina may have woken up as their World Cup status hung in the balance. Half time, France 1-1 Argentina.
Argentina got the high energy start they needed. A free kick on the left wing resulted in a Lionel Messi shot from outside the box. This faced a lethal deflection from Mercado, leaving Lloris stranded as the ball dribbled into the net. A spectacular turnaround from Argentina, who could have possibly saved their World Cup status here.
France, however, wouldn’t go down without a fight. A Matuidi cross fell to the full-back Pavard outside the box, who beautifully curled the ball into the top right corner in spectacular fashion. With this, Di Maria may have some competition for goal of the tournament. This left the game all tied up in Russia, with all to play for. This would certainly lead to an incredibly entertaining final half-hour.
Incredibly, France turned it around once again, with yet another Mbappe goal. The French now lead the game once again in an incredibly entertaining game. Red lights are surely blaring for Argentina now, who really need to up their game if they want to progress into the next round.
Argentina’s defense, however, may be irreparable at this point. The back line simply cannot keep up with this high octane French attack, as yet another driving run by Mbappe results in his second goal of the match. These last 20 minutes now hold an incredible amount of importance for Argentina. I fear that we may be witnessing the final World Cup game for Lionel Messi. France, however, may have found their next superstar- the 19 year old Mbappe was on another level today.
Argentina, in fairness, stepped up their game for the final 15 minutes, however it may be too little too late. Regrettably, they simply haven’t lived up to expectations this summer. They were outclassed by a very good French side here. Unfortunately, it looks like Lionel Messi will be exiting the tournament in brutal fashion.
Argentina, however, were given a final glimmer of hope, when a Sergio Aguero header just escaped Hugo Lloris at his near post. With this, the entire population of Argentina rose from their seats in ecstasy. It will certainly be an important final two minutes in an absolutely first-class game.
The final kick of the game, however, was a missed Argentina chance. France managed to hold on to their lead, despite a late barrage of Argentine chances. Final score, France 4-3 Argentina.
The Lazy Fan View
Today, France looked like world beaters. Their attack were simply too good for the blundering Argentina defense, with Kylian Mbappe becoming the first teenager to score two goals in a knockout game since Pele. The team seem to have finally gelled since their underwhelming opening games, with their attacking corps in particular looking especially strong. With this, France qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament, and may become one of the teams to watch in the coming fixtures.
Finally, we see the end of the road today for Argentina. Despite the scoreline suggesting a different story, France severely outclassed them today. Their defense predictably made several similar mistakes to those seen in the qualifying matches. Too often were France allowed to make dangerous runs down their flanks as their full-backs struggled to get back to their positions. Ultimately, Lionel Messi was let down in this tournament by a side who promised so much more. To see the greatest player of my generation exit the tournament in such a fashion is unbearably sad.