Lionel Messi is out of the World Cup and will most likely retire from international football after Argentina lost to France in a 4-3 classic. Messi had two assists, but was never really a factor in the game and the French deservedly won a fantastic 90 minutes of football. Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembélé move on to the quarterfinals, but it’s hard to imagine Barcelona fans being happy right now.
Both of these teams have talent but don’t really know how to play together, so it was safe to expect a wild, crazy game. We got it. Argentina had plenty of possession but very few ideas on how to, you know, pass the ball to each other and get close enough to the box that you can maybe fire a shot. Whenever they lost the ball, France activated Kylian Mbappé, who made insane run after insane run and looked unplayable in the first 20 minutes.
Mbappé’s amazing start earned France a penalty that Antoine Griezmann easily scored. It seemed from that point on that the French were going to destroy Argentina, but the Albiceleste dodged a few bullets on defense and were just a little better with the ball, and slowly but surely the French could not be as dangerous. Lionel Messi was very quiet early on and pretty much allowed N’Golo Kanté to get the best of him, but that would change.
Messi became more active and started to move better without the ball, getting away from Kanté’s shadow and influencing attacking plays a lot more. He didn’t create anything special, but Argentina looked better once he started to touch the ball more. After a corner taken by Messi went out for a throw-in, the ball eventually found Ángel Di María, who launched a rocket from distance that went right into the top corner. It was a spectacular equalizer, a deserved result for the Argentine.
At halftime, a very good game of football was wide open, and maybe the last few minutes of the first half were enough to give Messi the blueprint to take over in the second. Or maybe France would be just too good and too much for Argentina.
The final period could not have started any better for Argentina: a free-kick from Banega fell to Messi, who took a shot towards goal that was deflected by Gabriel Mercado and went in to give the Albiceleste a 2-1 lead. We still had pretty much 45 minutes to go, so France had more than enough time to take the lead against a poor Argentina defense.
And they did. In a space of ten minutes, Benjamin Pavard (with an insane strike) and Kylian Mbappé (twice) scored three goals for the French and ended the tie quickly. As we reached the final 20 minutes Argentina were already done and the loss could be a historic one if France wanted to. France didn’t want to, and Argentina made it a little less painful when Messi assisted Sergio Agüero’s late goal.
This is one of the best games in World Cup history. Easily. Back and forth madness for 70 minutes, and a 20-minutes stretch in the second half that is probably the single craziest 20-minute stretch of all time. Messi is out of the World Cup, his international career is probably over, and he could never win a trophy with his country. Sometimes football can be that cruel.
France: Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernández; Mbappé (Thauvin), Pogba, Kanté, Matuidi (Tolisso); Griezmann (Fekir), Giroud
Goals: Griezmann (13’), Pavard (57’), Mbappé (64’, 68’)
Argentina: Armani; Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo (Fazio), Tagliafico; Pérez (Agüero), Mascherano, Banega; Pavón (Meza), Messi, Di María
Goals: Di María (41’), Mercado (48’), Agüero (90’+3)