Kylian Mbappe upstaged Lionel Messi as France recorded a 4-3 win Saturday over Argentina in a topsy-turvy second-round match to open the knockout stage at the World Cup.
Teenager Mbappe was in devastating form in the heavyweight clash in Kazan, scoring two second-half goals to bring Argentina’s tumultuous campaign in Russia to an end.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward’s surging 70-yard burst also led to the opener after 13 minutes, Antoine Griezmann slotting home from the penalty spot after Mbappe was hauled down by Marcos Rojo.
Yet Argentina turned the game around to go ahead 2-1 on Angel Di Maria’s stunning long-range strike before the break followed by Gabriel Mercado’s fortuitous effort early in the second half.
However, Benjamin Pavard matched Di Maria’s effort with an outstanding equalizer in the 57th minute before Mbappe, 19, took center stage, securing Didier Deschamps’ side a place in the quarterfinals, where it will play the Uruguay-Portugal winner.
Messi – who will face questions over his international future in the aftermath of the defeat – did set up a late header for Sergio Aguero, but it was not enough to save Argentina, which was a finalist in 2014.
France, which made six changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Denmark last time out, was almost ahead after nine minutes, but Griezmann’s wonderful 25-yard free kick crashed back off Franco Armani’s crossbar.
The Atletico Madrid striker did not have to wait long to open the scoring, though – largely thanks to the scintillating pace of Mbappe.
After picking the ball up deep inside his own half, he set off on a sparkling run that was only halted when Rojo clumsily hauled him down just inside the area.
Griezmann stepped up and coolly converted from the spot, sending the ball low to Armani’s right for his second goal – both penalties – at the World Cup.
Argentina had scarcely offered anything in the way of an attacking threat during a tepid first half, yet drew level four minutes before halftime when Di Maria unleashed from distance with his left foot to beat Hugo Lloris.
Boosted by the equalizer, Jorge Sampaoli’s team started the second period with pace and was duly rewarded with a second goal three minutes after the restart.
Ever Banega’s free kick was headed out toward Messi, and the Barcelona star’s whipped effort toward goal was diverted past a helpless Lloris by Mercado, who had stuck out his foot in an apparent attempt to control the ball.
Argentina’s lead lasted just nine minutes, though, as France pulled level with a brilliant goal.
Lucas Hernandez’s cross from the left found fullback partner Pavard, who sliced across his half-volley from outside the area, sending it spinning into Armani’s top-right corner.
Mbappe put France ahead again in the 64th minute when he picked up a loose ball in the area, found a yard of space and fired it low past Armani, who was slow getting down. His second – a first-time finish – followed four minutes later, finally putting clear daylight between the teams.
Aguero set up a tense finale by nodding in a goal in the third minute of stoppage time, but it was not enough to prevent Argentina – and Messi – from crashing out.
Source: Guy Atkinson