At last a world cup game, a game who had pretty much all the ingredients that every fan was hoping and expecting! This was the meeting of two legitimate World Cup contenders, one with a superstar and the other with an ascending one looking to establish a place under the sun, despite his young age. This was a game or some sort of a coming out party, the perfect time for Kyllian Mbappé to present himself as the new contender of the Football Universe!
In the first half his dribbling and his quick pace, terrified Argentina, provoking the 13th minute penalty, from wich Antoine Griezmann opened the score. Argentina started the game by trying to play high, but they soon realised that they didn’t have the right tools/players. Argentina’s manager Sampaoli, played Messi as a false nine and opted for a fourth different formation in four games…but alas that was another one without any defensive stability. He even promised that his players would play with a knife between their teeth, but a knife is useful only when the players can use it !
Despite many chances, the French didn’t kill the game and just before half-time got an equalizer, a brilliant twenty-three metres drive by Angel di Maria then a second one in the beginning of the second half; a lucky one, as Messi’s ball fell back into the middle and was deflected by Gabriel Mercado‘s left foot.
That was the time when a team show force and determination to keep the score, whatever the cost; France were down and under huge pressure. Yet it was Les Bleus who gave the right answer; they just kept going and Benjamin Pavard‘s excellent equalizer ( were you watching Lilian Thuran? Some great souvenir from his equaliser against Croatia in the 1998 World Cup) provided Mbappé a platform to shine.
During that hot and humid afternoon in Kazan, the Parisian born teenager became the Player of the game and added to his name plaudits like unimaginable speed, extraordinary skills and unforgettable goals. That was not only the day when France beat Argentina…that was the DAY when a promising youngster still a teenager became a world known name, a star. Two goals in his first ever World Cup knockout game (since King Pele back at the 1958 WC) realising his Captain Hugo Lloris’ prediction.
Sadly the Argentinians’ collective play and balance were unable to attack their low crosses; Messi had only one touch inside the France penalty area in the first half and Javier Macherano was playing the villain of the play instead of trying to focus on the game.
The second half showed again the gaping holes of the Argentinian defense: lack of brains, speed, intelligence, you name it! A mistake from Enzo Perez and a few seconds later is 2-3 ; while les Bleus were celebrating, Messi was already waiting in the middle of the pitch for the kick off…was he remembering that not so long ago, he was just as good and even better than the french teenager? These days Messi is a player who makes space, rather than uses it; was he conscious that under the Russian sunset, the whole world were witnessing the Pulga‘s last international minutes, a modern tragedy when not even the most gifted player, is able to change his destiny.
Messi leaving the pitch with his head bowed, Mbappé big smile and fist pumped, two images, two wonderful players, but at the opposite ends of their careers…football can still break hearts, players and fans alike.
PLAYERS RATINGS :
ARGENTINA : Franco Armani (GK) : 4/10 Gabriel Mercado: 4,5/10 Nicolas Otamendi: 6/10 Marcos Rojo : 4/10 Nicolas Tagliafico : 6/10 Christian Pavon : 5,5/10 Javier Mascherano : 5,5/10 Enzo Perez : 5/10 Angel di Maria : 6,5/10 Ever Banega 6/10 Lionel Messi : 6/10
FRANCE : Hugo Lloris(GK) : 6/10 Benjamin Pavard : 8/10 Raphael Varane : 7/10 Samuel Umtiti : 6,5/10 Lucas Hernandez : 6/10 Paul Pogba : 8/10 Ngolo Kanté : 7/10 Blaise Matuidi : 7,5/10 Olivier Giroud : 7/10 Antoine Griezmann : 8/10 Kyllian Mbappé 9/10 MOTM