The first round of sixteen match was possibly the most exciting of the lot, with France taking on Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Eventually, it was Didier Deschamp’s side that made it through to the next round.
France vs Argentina – key events:
France (4-2-3-1): Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Samuel Umtiti, Raphael Varane, Lucas Hernandez; N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi (Corentin Tolisso, 75′); Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann (Nabil Fekir, 83′), Kylian Mbappe (Florian Thauvin, 89′); Olivier Giroud.
Argentina (4-3-3): Franco Armani; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo (Federico Fazio, 46′), Nicolas Tagliafico; Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez (Sergio Aguero, 67′); Cristian Pavon (Maximiliano Meza, 75′), Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria.
Goals: Griezmann 13′ (P), Di Maria 41′, Mercado 48′, Pavard 57′, Mbappe 65′, Mbappe 68′, Aguero 90’+2′.
Yellow card: Rojo 11′, Tagliafico 19′, Mascherano 43′, Banega 50′, Matuidi 72′, Pavard 73′, Otamendi 90’+3′, Giroud 90’+3′.
Griezmann, the French sensation, started the day brilliantly for his side. Minutes into the game, a well taken freekick from the Atletico Madrid forward hit the crossbar. And then four minutes later, Griezmann got his breakthrough! After Mbappe got fouled inside the box, France got a penalty and a left-footed strike from Griezmann found the nets comfortably. It was then time to get back in the game for Argentina.
The Argentine players were in fact maintaining more possession, albeit their attacks were going in vain. Eventually, with four minutes remaining in the half, Di Maria restored parity. The PSG-man got the ball after a throw-in and he had plenty of spaces just outside the France box. He needed a moment to adjust himself for a great shot and then, the thunderbolt left Lloris with nothing to do. It was 1-1 as the two teams went into the break.
The second half started with a magnificent break for Argentina. From an attack on the left hand side, Messi got the ball inside France box. The superstar then tried his luck with a quick shot, and much to the ecstasy of the fans, it hit Mercado’s feet on its way and changed direction to fool Lloris in the goal. France were trailing 1-2 and were left with a huge task to accomplish.
Well, it took them only about 10 minutes to do that. Right-back Pavard got the chance to hit from a Hernandez-cross, and what a screamer it was! A fabulous volley from the Frenchman looked better than Di Maria’s earlier stunner and left Armani stranded to make the scoreline 2-2. Then, two minutes later, Mbappe got the third for France. It was long-time coming and at the 65th minute, from a jostle inside the box, the talented youngster got the goal he deserved. And he never stopped! After three more minutes, Giroud fed a nice ball to Mbappe and the PSG forward made no mistake to slot it home from the right side of the box. With about 20 minutes to go, France were leading 4-2.
Afterwards, Messi and co continued trying to pull the match back, but it was only during the stoppage time when they got one more goal. It was Messi’s surgical cross that found Aguero inside the box. The Manchester City forward’s header hit the goal to make it 4-3 and that was the final scoreline. France will play their quarter final on July 6.