The meeting of France and Argentina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ was the pair’s first clash at the global showpiece for 40 years. And while hosts and subsequent champions Argentina defeated a Bleus side containing a young Michel Platini 2-1 back in 1978, this time the French would prevail 4-3 in an unbridled last-16 encounter featuring numerous twists, splendid goals and a performance by Kylian Mbappe that has already gone down in World Cup lore.
Eliminating Messi’s Argentina remains one of the finest moments of Les Bleues’ Russian epic, even if La Albiceleste did not quite seem up to the task of reprising their final appearance of four years earlier.
France 4-3 Argentina
30 June 2018 | Kazan
Goalscorers: France: Griezmann (13′ PEN), Pavard (57′), Mbappe (64′, 68′) | Argentina: Di Maria (41′), Mercado (48′), Aguero (90’+3)
- France: Hugo Lloris (c), Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez, Ngolo Kante, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe (Florian Thauvin, 89′), Antoine Griezmann (Nabil Fekir 83′), Blaise Matuidi (Corentin Tolisso 75′), Giroud
- Argentina: Franco Armani, Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi (Federico Fazio, 46′), Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Tagliafico, Enzo Perez (Sergio Aguero, 66′), Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega, Cristian Pavon (Maximiliano Meza, 75′), Lionel Messi (c), Angel Di Maria
For the future world champions, the game presented their first major test after underwhelming in the group phase. For their part, Messi and Co had flirted with an early exit in Group D, before recovering from a chastening 3-0 defeat to Croatia to snatch a last-16 berth in the dying minutes against Nigeria.
Messi deceptively effective: This defeat was another blow to Messi’s seemingly ill-fated aspirations with La Albiceleste, four years after he came agonisingly close to the ultimate prize. His exceptional influence on the game could almost make you forget that he has failed to score in the knockout phase of the last four editions of the World Cup. Against the French, he may have been a bit below his usual lofty standards, but he still had two assists, four shots on goal and lost only six balls from 67 touches.
Les Bleus ship three – but still win: One particular stat illustrates how crazy this game was. France had not conceded three goals in a World Cup match since losing the third-place game against Poland in 1982. Indeed, since the start of Didier Deschamps’ tenure in 2012, the team had shipped three or more goals on just four occasions, losing each time.
Pavard superstar: Di Maria’s stunning 25-metre strike for Argentina’s opener looked destined to be the goal of the game, that is until Pavard’s sublime half-volley just before the hour mark. The incredible execution with the outside of his foot, for what was the right-back’s maiden strike for his country, earned him the Hyundai Goal of the Tournament award at Russia 2018.
Having opened his tournament account with a goal against Peru in the group phase, Mbappe added two more to his tally in the space of four minutes against La Albiceleste when the sides were tied 2-2. The latter, already greatly impacted by the Frenchman’s blistering acceleration that led to the opening goal, had no way back after that. The match also saw Mbappe make World Cup history by becoming the youngest player to net a brace in a knockout game since Pele in 1958.
What they said
“It was a massive game – at a packed stadium against a very good Argentina side with lots of experience. We have a much younger team, but they’re up for it, know how to respond and have character. It wasn’t easy, though. We had the good fortune to go in front, then they pegged us back, but we never gave up.”
Didier Deschamps, France coach
What happened next
In the quarter-finals, Les Bleus came up against another South American heavyweight in Uruguay, who they overcame 2-0 with a fearless and masterful display. They then dispatched Belgium (1-0) in the semis before prevailing over Croatia (4-2) in another crazy game that earned France a second star on their famous blue shirts.