Kylian Mbappe has delivered a breakthrough performance on the World Cup stage as France recorded a 4-3 victory over Argentina in Saturday’s last-16 clash in Kazan.
A stunning burst of pace from the youngster earned a penalty for his side in the early stages before a quick-fire double after the break put his team in control.
Antoine Griezmann and Benjamin Pavard – in some style – also netted for France as goals from Angel Di Maria, Gabriel Mercado and Sergio Aguero proved in vain.
Both teams started brightly with tackles flying in from all angles and the first shot on goal almost led to a goal, with Antoine Griezmann striking the angle between bar and post from 25 yards.
Two minutes later, France were awarded a penalty after a sensational burst of pace from Kylian Mbappe left Javier Mascherano in the centre of the pitch before Marcos Rojo opted to haul down the Paris Saint-Germain attacker.
The foul gave Griezmann the opportunity to score from 12 yards and the forward made no mistake as he slotted the ball into the centre of the goal as Franco Armani dived to his left.
Argentina were having their moments at the other end of the pitch but the defence were anxious whenever Mbappe got hold of the ball in space and it resulted in Jorge Sampaoli’s team having to sit deeper than perhaps planned.
France appeared to be comfortable heading into half time but just before the break, Di Maria got Argentina back on level terms in some style with the 30-year-old drilling a 30-yard strike into the top corner of Hugo Lloris’s net.
Soon after the restart, Argentina found themselves ahead but unlike Di Maria’s opener, there was an element of luck to it as Lionel Messi’s shot from the edge of the area took a deflection off Mercado before finding the bottom corner.
Going ahead resulted in Argentina over-committing in tackles and with the pace of their play and it only led to their energy diminishing quickly, which played into France’s hands.
However, the equaliser for Les Bleus would have taken the breath away of any side. A cross from the left went through to Pavard who was waiting on the edge of the penalty area and the full-back struck an exquisite first-time half-volley into the far corner from 20 yards out.
While that strike was a goal of the tournament contender, Mbappe’s quick-fire double was ruthless and arguably the world’s biggest prospect deserved to take centre stage.
Mbappe’s first came as a result of a half-clearance, with the 19-year-old’s first touch taking him into a shooting position before he drilled a low shot underneath Armani from 10 yards.
Four minutes later, Mbappe effectively ended the contest. A fine team move ended with Giroud passing the ball through to the advancing winger whose first-time effort flew past Armani and into the far corner of the net.
In the third minute of added-on time, Argentina did halve the deficit through Aguero’s header at the back post but it proved too little too late as the South Americans bowed out in the first knockout stage.