Russia 2018 Watch: France force out Argentina in thriller
PUBLISHED: 19:09 30 June 2018
Read our World Cup blog over the coming weeks. Lane Dias reviews the first last-16 tie
France and Argentina had met twice previously in the World Cup, with the South Americans prevailing on both occasions by one-goal margins: 1-0 in the first ever tournament in 1930 and 2-1 in 1978 (the last time France lost to South American opposition) – with the Argentineans making the finals both times.
Les Bleus progressed into the round of 16 for the second consecutive campaign and just like 2014, managed to overcome the group stage in unbeaten fashion, meanwhile the Argentines have progressed into the knockout stages for the fourth successive campaign.
La Albiceleste are winless in their previous four World Cup matches against European sides within 90 minutes, with their last victory against such opposition coming in their 2014 quarter-final against Belgium.
France’s previous round of 16 tie contested on June 30 saw them defeat Nigeria 2-0 in Brazil, four years ago.
Argentina have had mixed fortunes when they’ve played on June 30 – winning two of their five matches (both on penalty shootouts). The last occasion saw Argentina defeated on penalties to tournament hosts Germany in 2006.
France started in the ascendancy and very nearly opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Antoine Griezmann hit the bar with a freekick. Three minutes later Didier Deschamps’ side were awarded a penalty when Kylian Mbappé was impeded in the area by Marcos Rojo, who had scored the decisive goal to put Argentina into the last 16.
Griezmann stepped up to slot home from the spot – sending Franco Armani the wrong way.
Argentina were in trouble and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker was quick to mention on Twitter that “France are unbeaten in their last 18 World Cup games in which they’ve scored first, winning 16 and drawing 2. Last time they lost scoring first was against Poland in 1982.”
However, that statistic was slightly threatened, four minutes before the interval, as la Albiceleste drew level courtesy of a peach of a strike from Ángel Di María, who curled home into the top corner with a superb effort from outside the area.
Lineker was in awe of the strike on Twitter saying: “Mama Mia Di Maria. What a goal.”
According to Opta, both of Di María’s two World Cup goals had come in the same round of 16 stage.
Three minutes into the second half, the two-time World Cup winners went in front when Lionel Messi’s tame strike deflected in off the outstretched leg of Gabriel Mercado, following an Éver Banega free-kick.
The Argentines’ lead barely lasted 10 minutes, however as Benjamin Pavard latched onto Lucas Hernández’s cross to slice home on the half-volley to score France’s equaliser.
Mbappé then fired home from a tight angle to regain France’s lead before slotting home his second of the match to make it four.
Substitute Sergio Agüero then reduced the deficit in the 93rd minute to set up a nervy finish, but the 1998 winners held on to seal a place in the quarter-finals.