Kylian Mbappe came of age in Kazan with a stunning second half double to fire France into the World Cup quarter-finals and leave Lionel Messi’s Argentina heading home.
The 19-year-old striker scored twice in five minutes just past the hour mark as Didier Deschamps’ men stormed back from behind to seal a 4-3 victory in a seven-goal thriller which will live long in the memory.
An enthralling contest saw goal-of-the-tournament contenders from both Angel Di Maria and Benjamin Pavard and even an improbably dramatic finale after Sergio Aguero’s injury-time effort gave Argentina hope.
Antoine Griezmann had given France an early lead from the penalty spot and Jorge Sampaoli’s side only stirred after Di Maria lashed home a superb 30-yard effort shortly before half-time.
Gabriel Mercado poked Argentina into the lead before Pavard’s stunning equaliser paved the way for the audacious Mbappe to take the game by the scruff of its neck.
Amid it all stood the forlorn figure of Lionel Messi, who was rendered a virtual bit-part player in his so-called ‘false nine’ position, shorn of the influence with which he has turned so many previous games in his favour.
Beleaguered Sampaoli had insisted his side would approach the game “with a knife between their teeth” but as with their group stage campaign there was little sign of anything incisive early on.
Griezmann had already hit the bar before he gave France the lead from the penalty shot in the 13th minute after Mbappe was fouled by Marcos Rojo in the box.
The impressive Paul Pogba fired over the bar and France looked set to win the game at will before Di Maria changed the momentum four minutes before the break, smashing home a brilliant left-footed shot from long-range.
The recovery was complete three minutes into the second half when Mercado deflected effort into the net, but the response from Deschamps’ men proved simply devastating.
First Pavard let fly with a right-footed effort which was every inch the equal of Di Maria’s strike to draw France level in the 57th minute.
Six minutes later a left-wing cross from Lucas Hernandez was only half-cleared from the Argentina box and fell to Mbappe, who took one touch before slotting home beneath keeper Franco Armani.
And neither France nor Mbappe were finished, with the teenager increasing his tally in the 68th minute when he was fed by Olivier Giroud on the right side of the box and duly dispatched his second of the game.
Yet there was still to be one final twist as Aguero stooped to head home Messi’s cross into the box two minutes into injury time, giving Argentina hope of an outrageous recovery.
They pushed forward desperately in the dying seconds but the referee’s whistle led to wild celebrations and the sense that Messi could have handed over the mantle to a new superstar of the game.
- France have reached the quarter-finals in consecutive World Cup tournaments for the first time.
- France are unbeaten in their last nine World Cup meetings with South American nations (W5 D4), since losing 1-2 against Argentina in the 1978 tournament.
- This was just the fifth time Argentina have conceded 4+ goals in a World Cup match, and first since losing 0-4 to Germany in the 2010 quarter-final.
- Argentina are the first team to score at least three goals but still lose a World Cup match since the USSR vs Belgium in 1986 (3-4).
- France scored with all four of their shots on target in this match. They’d scored three goals from 12 shots on target in the group stages.
- There were eight yellow cards in this match, equalling the most shown in a single game so far at the 2018 World Cup (also Belgium vs Panama).
- Seven of the eight shots on target in this match were scored, with the exception being Argentina’s Lionel Messi in the 85th minute.
- France’s Kylian Mbappe became the first teenager to score at least twice in a World Cup match since Pele netted twice for Brazil against Sweden in the 1958 final.
- France forward Kylian Mbappe became the first teenager to score multiple goals in a World Cup tournament since Michael Owen for England in 1998.
- France have never lost an international match in which Antoine Griezmann has scored for them (W17 D2 L0).
- At 30.16 yards, Angel Di Maria’s equaliser for Argentina was the longest range goal scored so far in the 2018 World Cup.
- Benjamin Pavard’s goal was his first for France in what was his ninth appearance for Les Bleus.
- Argentina’s Lionel Messi has played 756 minutes of football in World Cup knockout stage matches, but has failed to score a single goal.
- Argentina’s Lionel Messi is the only player to have delivered an assist in each of the last four World Cup tournaments.