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Sputnik 2018: Mbappe runs Argentina out of Russia, Cavani collars Portugal as Messi and Ronaldo take leave

So, farewell to the G.O.A.T and the Goatee. The Russia 2018 World Cup will make do without football’s MVP trophy-grabbing duopoly of Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, after the pair were eliminated on the first day of the Round of 16 today.

Messi’s return ticket was booked at around midday, after Argentina were on the wrong side of a 4-3 thriller with France. Ronaldo got his own ticket home a few hours later—just to keep an eye on his close rival, you see.

Almost certainly, neither will ever lift a World Cup trophy.

Photo: Argentina captain Lionel Messi takes off his armband after his country’s 4-3 loss to France in the World Cup Round of 16.
(Copyright FIFA/Getty)

Messi will be 35 when Qatar 2020 comes around, which is a ripe age for a footballer but still, theoretically, doable. Yet surely he will be too old to tote an entire country on his back by then—even if he still wanted to represent a FA that hired a nightclub bouncer as head coach.

Ronaldo—who is probably shaving his ‘good luck goatee’ as we speak—will be 37 in 2020 but probably in supreme condition. Still, as actor Will Ferrell can tell you, it’s not much fun being Megamind when Metro Man has retired. So who knows if he will fancy another go.

So if it is time to start looking for a new global star, then France teenager Kylian Mbappé could not have chosen a better day to put forward his CV, as he tore into the Argentina defence like a plate of macaroni pie and callaloo after a hard day’s work.

Fast, skilful and audacious, the 19 year old Frenchman—his father is Cameroonian and his mother, Algerian—became only the second teenager to score twice in a World Cup match since the legendary Brazilian, Pelé, at the 1958 edition.

“Let’s put things in context: Pelé is another category,” said Mbappé, after this match, “but it’s good to be among these people.”

Photo: France forward Kylian Mbappé (right) leaves Argentina defenders Javier Mascherano (centre) and Nicolás Tagliafico in his wake during their World Cup Round of 16 contest on 30 June 2018.
(Copyright FIFA/Getty)

At the end of the contest, Mbappe returned to the field to share a hug with Messi. And it was probably the only time an Argentine was able to get hold of him all day.

Yet La Albiceleste played their part in an enthralling encounter and even led at one stage, albeit a bit fortuitously. The porous South American defence could not live with the direct pace of the European outfit in the end though.

The game was just 11 minutes old when the pacy Mbappé torched opposing playmaker Ever Banega and left back Nicolás Tagliafico, before being bundled over by Marcos Rojo. Rojo’s foul actually happened outside the area but the pair were still entangled when the France forward hit the ground inside the box.

And Antoine Griezmann made no mistake from the spot.

Argentina had most of the possession but had not really threatened, before Angel Di Maria belied his forgettable start to the match with a stunning 30 yard strike into the far corner to equalise.

Photo: Angel in disguise?
Argentina winger Angel Di Maria (right) beats France goalkeeper Hugo Loris with a cracker during their World Cup Round of 16 match on 30 June 2018.
(Copyright FIFA/Getty)

And La Albiceleste must have thought God was smiling on them when a Messi shot was deflected in by right back Gabriel Mercado, to put the South Americans ahead in the 47th minute.

The advantage lasted just 10 minutes, before France right back Benjamin Pavard thumped home another cracking shot from the edge of the area. And then Mbappé showed his own predatory instinct with a fine double, which again made the Argentine backline look as though they had cement in their boots.

Sampaoli sent on Sergio Aguero, who he has not started since the gifted striker made a snide remark at his expense after their 3-0 loss to Croatia. And Aguero halved the deficit with a close range header off a Messi cross. But by then, the fat lady was already on her closing stanza.

In today’s second outing, Ronaldo never looked like having better luck than his close rival. And they didn’t deserve it either.

Seven minutes into the match, Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani played a long cross-field ball to Luis Suarez and then ran 50 yards to head home uncontested off the latter’s return cross.

Photo: Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani (right) heads home from a Luis Suarez cross during their Round of 16 clash with Portugal on 30 June 2018.
(Copyright FIFA/Getty)

Cavani had 44 international goals at that point. Just over a quarter of them were directly assisted by Suarez.

Didn’t see that coming, Portugal? Really? It was like being slapped by a man with one hand.

Pepe pulled Portugal back on level terms with a header from a set piece in the 55th minute. But Cavani decided the match with a fine finish in the 62nd minute—at least this time, Suarez was not involved.

There was a touching moment in the 70th minute when Ronaldo helped a limping Cavani off the field to get medical treatment. But it was the only thing Ronaldo pulled off for the whole match.

By the final whistle, the great Messi and Ronaldo again shared an extraordinary record. Both played in four World Cups without ever scoring a goal in the knockout round.

For Messi, that drought stretched to just over 756 minutes. It was 514 barren minutes for Ronaldo.

Brazilian wizard, Neymar, who is considered to be the player best equipped to take the baton from the ageing geniuses, got a knockout goal at his first World Cup in 2014. And he would hope to add to that tally on Monday when Brazil meet Mexico in the Round of 16.

But Neymar’s PSG teammate, Mbappé, has two World Cup knockout goals now.

Photo: France wonderboy Kylian Mbappé (right) shares an embrace with Argentina captain Lionel Messi after their Round of 16 meeting on 30 June 2018.
(Copyright FIFA/Getty)

Neymar, sensationally, left Barcelona for PSG last year in an effort to escape Messi’s long shadow at the Spanish giants. But if Mbappé keeps this up, the Brazilian would struggle to hog the headlines in Ligue 1 as well.

Maybe a new duopoly is on the horizon. PSG might not be big enough for those two ‘bo rats’.

World Cup 2018

Round of 16

(Saturday 30 June)

France 4 (Antoine Griezmann 13 pen, Benjamin Pavard 57, Kylian Mbappe 64, 67), Argentina 3 (Angel Di Maria 41, Gabriel Mercado 47, Sergio Aguero 90+3), Kazan;

Uruguay 2 (Edinson Cavani 7, 62), Portugal 1 (Pepe 55), Sochi;

Photo: Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo (left) helps Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani off the field, during their World Cup Round of 16 clash on 30 June 2018.
(Copyright FIFA/Getty)

(Sunday 1 July)

Spain v Russia, 10am, Moscow;

Croatia v Denmark, 2pm, Nizhny Novgorod;

(Monday 2 July)

Brazil v Mexico, 10am, Samara;

Belgium v Japan, 2pm, Rostov-On-Don;

(Tuesday 3 July)

Sweden v Switzerland, 10am, St Petersburg;

Colombia v England, 2pm, Moscow.

Photo: The France cockerel makes his stand during their World Cup Round of 16 meeting with Argentina on 30 June 2018.
(Copyright FIFA/Getty)

Quarterfinals

(Friday 6 July)

France v Uruguay, Nizhny Novgorod;

Brazil/Mexico v Belgium/Japan, Kazam;

(Saturday 7 July)

Spain/Russia v Croatia/Denmark, Sochi;

Sweden/Switzerland v Colombia/England, Samara.

Photo: Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo takes his leave from the 2018 World Cup, after his team’s 2-1 loss to Uruguay on 30 June 2018.
(Copyright FIFA/Getty)

About Mr. Live Wire

Mr. Live Wire
Mr. Live Wire is an avid news reader who translates media reports for persons who can handle the truth. And satire. Unlike Jack Nicholson, he rarely yells.

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9 comments

  1. Laurainne and Amery can you imagine Spain hiring Sampaoli? And he drops Silva straight away to play a runner like Jesus Navas?!
    Steups!

  2. Amery thankfully not everyone brings race into sport and can simply recognise genius and a good human being:
    https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/fans-loved-what-paul-pogba-12826276

    • Kendall our team was pretty mediocre this time though. At least those that went.
      If you look at players who missed out through injury or were not used: Romero, Lanzini, Dybala, Lo Celso, Pastore, Icardi, Kranevitter… That’s a lot of quality to deprive yourself of.

    • Kendall who in that team underperformed outside of Di Maria really?

    • Banega underperformed in his two starts? That’s crazy. Higuain missed two good chances. But what did Kun fail to do? Dismantle a defence single handedly?
      I think you’re saying that because a man didn’t kill off a team he didn’t perform. That’s not fair assessment in my opinion.
      Some players were out of their depth. Technically average and obviously not ready. I have never in my life seen an Argentine attacker miscontrol repeat passes into them like Pavon today. I can’t say he underperformed. He lacks quality. Messi missed a penalty. Otherwise he did what he could with what he had. He didn’t star. But he didn’t fail the team either.

    • Banega was brilliant. Against Nigeria, he touched the ball and ran more than anyone from both teams. And most of that was positive.
      And Nigeria have some talented midfielders. Eteboo (can’t check spelling now) has a very bright future.
      I though Pogba might overrun Banega today and with little help he more than held his own in that battle too. Banega was our best performer to me.

    • A shooter needs bullets. A striker needs opportunities. Kun did as much as he could with little he had.
      Messi was constantly saddled with C grade players. The reason why his game lifted against Nigeria is that it was Banega’s first start of the tournament.
      Banega was like one man trying to stop the tide. To see him holding off bigger, faster players and efficiently moving on the ball today was awesome. God knows how many times he released Di Maria and just had to shake his head in the end.
      Messi can’t even get a wall pass from Acuna, Pavon and company. This guys can’t even a roll a defender. They can’t win a yard. Give the ball to Meza and it comes straight back at you without him creating any space.
      Messi has made the seemingly impossible seem normal. But he is just first and blood in the end.

    • Laurainne imagine being similar to Messi is a bad thing. 🤭🤭🤭
      If Argentina had four players similar to Messi, we would cruise to the title. Steups.

  3. Pogba on Messi:
    “We (France) have played against the best player in the world (Messi).

    “I’ve been watching him for ten years to learn from him. He makes me love football. He’s always going to be an idol for me.”

    https://www.givemesport.com/1344300-paul-pogba-spoke-from-the-heart-about-lionel-messi-after-france-43-argentina?autoplay=off