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SPORTS | 30-06-2018 13:07

Argentina crash out of World Cup after 4-3 loss to France

The Albiceleste after heading home from Russia after being defeated by a Kylian Mbappé-inspired French team in Kazan.

The Albiceleste's World Cup dream is over.

Argentina are heading home from Russia after being defeated 4-3 by France in a thrilling last-16 World Cup match on Saturday. The French team's attack, inspired by two-goal teenager Kylian Mbappé, was too deadly for the Albiceleste's back line in Kazan.

Mbappé, 19, struck twice within minutes in the second half to put France 4-2 ahead and although Sergio Agüero gave the French a late scare with a goal in injury-time, the Europeans managed to hold on.

The Les Bleus owed their triumph to the 19-year-old Mbappé. Always a threat to Argentina with his speed and power, Mbappé was at the heart of France's performance.

France took an early lead after Antoine Griezmann broke the deadlock from the penalty spot in the 13th — after Mbappé drew the penalty — with Ángel Di María levelling the score with a thunder strike just before the interval.

Messi set-up a goal for Gabriel Mercado to give Argentina a 2-1 lead just after halftime but Argentina's defence cracked to concede three goals in the space of 11 minutes. Defender Benjamin Pavard equalised with his first international goal, Mbappé then scored with a cool finish from a tight angle and netted again in the 68th with some help from Olivier Giroud.

Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero pulled one back in the third minute of added time with a header from Messi's pass.

PACE

Embattled Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli had promised an "aggressive, attacking" approach from his side.

But his fears over the superior speed of the French strikers were quickly proven right when Mbappé sprinted from his own half until he was hauled down by Marcos Rojo. Griezmann coolly converted the 13th minute penalty.

But Mbappé's PSG teammateDi María levelled with a 41st minute long-range stunner.

Argentina took a 2-1 lead minutes after the restart when Gabriel Mercado clipped 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, Mbappé struck in the 64th and 68th minute to seal France's place in the last eight. 

The last time France lost a World Cup game after taking the lead was in 1982, against Poland.

Penalty shouts

Argentine had calls for first-half penalties too when the ball skimmed Samuel Umtiti's arm, then when Messi tumbled as he was played into the area, were waved away. France had looked in control, but the stakes changed dramatically minutes before the interval.

Cristian Pavón, on the left flank, found Di María unmarked 25 yards out from goal and he unleashed a thunderbolt that flew past a diving Lloris and into the top right-hand corner.

Di Maria, one of several Albiceleste players criticised for underperfoming in their group stage games, made amends by almost setting up Argentina's second too.

He twisted and turned on the left side of the area to win a free kick, after Pavard's tug, and when Banega's free kick was cleared by Pogba it fell to Messi. His curled shot looked innocuous, but Mercado stuck a foot out to wrong-footed Lloris.

Minutes later, Les Bleus were level, Pavard matching Di María's effort with a superbly-struck half-volley with the outside of his right boot that spun past goalkeeper Franco Armani after Blaise Matuidi's wayward cross found the Stuttgart defender.

Despite a late consolation for Argentina when Agüero headed Messi's superb long cross past Lloris in stoppage time, Mbappé had already well and truly stolen the show.

When Matuidi's shot was blocked just after the hour, Mbappé was on hand to restore France's lead with a low shot past Armani.

Four minutes later the teenager ran on to Olivier Giroud's perfect pass on a France counter to drive it low past Armani and spark mass celebrations on the French bench.

Now, they march on. And Argentina are heading home.

- AFP

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