France knock Messi, Argentina out in seven-goal thriller



France have knocked Argentina out of the World Cup after a 4-3 win in Kazan.

Antoine Griezmann converted a 13th-minute penalty but Angel Di Maria levelled with a 41st-minute long-range stunner. Argentina took a 2-1 lead minutes after the restart when Gabriel Mercado clipped Lionel Messi’s low curling shot past Hugo Lloris.

Defender Benjamin Pavard’s stunning half-volley levelled for France on 57 minutes and as Argentina lost hope, Kylian Mbappe struck in the 64th and 68th minute to seal France’s place in the last eight.

As expected, the tackles were flying in from either side and it resulted in both teams conceding possession to each other.

Argentina started the better of the two teams. A fine ball through found Angel Di Maria but the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder’s delivery into the box was poor and the opening was lost.

The woodwork denied Antoine Griezmann. He looked too close to get it up and down with power, but he did just that and struck the angle between post and bar. Franco Armani barely moved.

For those have ever wondered why Kylian Mbappe is worth so much money, they found out when he earned his side a penalty kick. The youngster surged forward from the halfway line, running past two players and then getting hauled down by Marcos Rojo, who was promptly booked.

Griezmann stepped up and waited for Armani to move before slotting the ball down the centre.

Nicolas Tagliafico picked up a yellow for tripping Mbappe right on the edge of the area. It looked a penalty at first glance but a free kick was the correct decision. It came after an exquisite long ball from Paul Pogba which released Mbappe behind the defense.

Gabriel Mercado thought Argentina should have been given a penalty after a cross hit Samuel Umtiti on the hand, but the referee said no. It was probably not enough for a spot-kick but VAR was not used.

The South American side were back on level terms in the 41st minute. There appeared no danger when Angel Di Maria picked up the ball around 30 yards out but the playmaker took a touch and sent a rocket of a shot into the top corner with Hugo Lloris having no chance.

The half-time whistle sounded in Kazan and we were on level terms after a thoroughly-engaging half of football.

On resumption of the second half, Argentina took the lead. A 49th-minute free kick was half-cleared to Messi and after turning on the edge of the box, the Barcelona playmaker scuffed a shot towards goal. However, it took a deflection off Mercado and went into the bottom corner.

France soon levelled matters. A cross from the left went all the way through to young full-back Benjamin Pavard on the edge of the area and he directed a swerving volley into the far corner of the net. It was a sensational hit, much like that of Nacho Hernandez for Spain against Portugal.

Argentina started to look a little flat. They were no longer showing the energy and commitment to tackles and France were allowed to do what they wanted with the ball.

France took the lead for the second time. A cross was only half-cleared to Mbappe, who showed a quick turn before getting a shot away. It was from an acute angle and well-struck, but his low effort went under Armani and into the net.

It was surely game over for Argentina. France put together a lovely team move and it ended with Olivier Giroud playing the ball through to Mbappe, who ran onto the ball and powered a low shot into the far corner of the net.

More and more space opened up in the Argentina defense and Giroud was teed up to score a fifth for France. However, he sliced a volley wide of the near post.

The South Americans remained flat. France were in full control and were patient for another opportunity.

We were nearly treated to a wonderful individual goal from Messi. The forward maneuvered his way past two France defenders before getting the opportunity to shoot on goal from 14 yards out but he miscued his effort straight at Lloris.

There was one more goal in the game and it was Argentina who scored at injury time. Messi delivered an outrageous cross into the penalty area and Sergio Aguero sent a header inside of the near post from six yards out.

TheCable