Teenage superstar Kylian Mbappé stole the show as France won a seven-goal thriller - full of sensational goals - 4-3 to pip Argentina to a place in the quarters, where they will take on the winner of Uruguay and Portugal.
Saturday, 30 June, 2018
FIFA World Cup, round of 16
Kazan Arena, Kazan
France 4 - 3 Argentina
All the criticism of France's attacking sector after three relatively quiet group-stage matches was rendered obsolete on Saturday as Antoine Griezmann (13'), Benjamin Pavard (57') and Kylian Mbappé (64', 68') set the tournament ablaze - and put paid to Lionel Messi's World Cup dream - in a thrilling, see-sawing match in Kazan.
France threatened early, with Griezmann bouncing a free-kick off the cross-bar after Mbappé's eye-popping pace had drawn a foul (9'). It wasn't long before the Atlético forward had a chance to try again - Mbappé once again brought down but this time inside the area - and the Colchonero made no mistake from the spot (11').
However, Paris Saint-Germain star Angel Di Maria levelled with a superb 25-metre strike (41') and when Gabriel Mercado deflected a Messi effort past Hugo Lloris just after the re-start, Argentina turned the game on its head (48').
While France's leveller came from an unlikely source - team newbie and right-back Benjamin Pavard sliced a sublime volley into the top corner from outside the box to make it 2-2 (57') - it spurred a revival led by a player from whom much is expected. For good reason, as it turned out.
Mbappé's first of the match, and second of the tournament, saw him use his long legs to steal a march on the Argentine defence and end a goal-mouth scramble with a deft low shot (64'). Four minutes later, an inch-perfect ball from Olivier Giroud saw Mbappé burst into the area and slap an unbeatable low drive past Armani (68').
At 4-2, Les Bleus seemed certain to get an historic win, but Argentine substitute Sergio Aguëro put the cat amongst the pigeons and gave his country hope when he headed home from Messi's precise long pass (90'+3). However, despite a last-gasp chance from a Messi free-kick, Argentina's World Cup dream was extinguished by the pace and verve of a young French side with a bright future.
France now meet the winner of the next round of 16 clash - between Uruguay and France's Euro 2016 final nemeses Portugal - on Friday, 6 July.
THE PLAYER: Kylian Mbappé
The 19-year-old's pace was simply too much for the Argentine defence, and his clinical finishing was simply too sharp for Argentine 'keeper Franco Armani. Mbappé's incendiary performance saw him arrive on the world stage and become just the second teenager in World Cup history to score a knock-out round double. The first? A certain Brazilian prodigy named Pelé, who at just 17, bagged a hat-trick in the 5-2 1958 World Cup semi-final against… France.
THE STAT: 7
Mbappé's two goals were his sixth and seventh for France in just 19 caps. He may have a long way to go to match record-holder Thierry's 51 goals for Les Bleus, or even current teammate Olivier Giroud, on 31, but if he continues to fire in such fashion against the likes of Argentina on the world's biggest stage, then the Paris Saint-Germain prodigy could well get there.