Monday 23 July 2018

Messi and Ronaldo floored by knockout blows

Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts. Photo: Ricardo Mazalan/AP
Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts. Photo: Ricardo Mazalan/AP newsdesk

The two best players on the planet said farewell to the World Cup yesterday after both Argentina and Portugal crashed out of the tournament.

France's teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe was on fire in the Kazan Arena, scoring twice in a sensational 4-3 win over Argentina as Lionel Messi cut a frustrated figure.

And Edinson Cavani struck twice for Uruguay as they got the better of Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in Sochi. France and Uruguay will now meet in the quarter-finals on Friday.

The 19-year-old Mbappe vowed to keep his feet on the ground after matching a 60-year-old record set by Pele, as the first teenager to score two goals in a finals match since the Brazilian great in 1958.

"It's flattering to be the second one after Pele but let's put things into context - Pele is in another category," he said. "But it is good to be amongst these people and to score in knockout matches. At a World Cup you have all the top-level players so it is an opportunity to show what you can do and what your abilities are."

Antoine Griezmann's early penalty put France in front before Argentina replied through a stunning Angel Di Maria strike and a fortunate deflection off Gabriel Mercado either side of the half-time break.

Benjamin Pavard equalised for France before Mbappe's two strikes around the hour mark turned the match on its head, with Sergio Aguero's injury-time header coming too late for Argentina.

After the game, midfielder Javier Mascherano wasted no time in announcing his international retirement after winning a record 147 caps for his country.

"This whole story is over, and from now on I am a fan of the Argentine team, and I hope these guys can win something in the future," he said.

In Sochi, Cavani gave Uruguay a seventh-minute lead before Pepe equalised for the reigning European champions 10 minutes into the second half, but a 67th-minute winner secured Uruguay's win. Pepe's header was the first goal that Uruguay had conceded at this World Cup, but Oscar Tabarez's side recovered to secure a date with France in Nizhny Novgorod.

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