France vs Argentina, World Cup 2018: Kylian Mbappe comes of age, Lionel Messi slumps and Paul Pogba shows a new side

Mbappe put on a show as Les Bleus came from behind to knock out Jorge Sampaoli's side

France Argentina players walk out at Kazan Arena

France have ended Argentina and Lionel Messi’s hopes of World Cup glory with a 4-3 win in a thrilling round of 16 match to start the knockout rounds.

Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring from the spot then Argentina came back into the game with goals from Angel Di Maria and Gabriel Mercado.

But the match swung out of Argentina’s favour when Benjamin Pavad’s superb volley brought the game level before Kylian Mbappe’s brace sealed France’s place in the quarter-final.

Here are five things we learned from Kazan:

1. France can win big games as individuals, not as a team

That was more like it from France. Their first three games were plagued with accusations that they can do much more, and that their success was only down to individual moments not as a result of a team process. Didier Deschamps looked out of his depth and the uneventful 0-0 draw against Denmark suggested France may not go as far in the tournament as their talented squad suggests it could.

However, France’s individuals were allowed to shine against Argentina who made it easy for solo players to influence the game. Mbappe’s scintillating runs and goals were all down to Mbappe. Griezmann’s goal from the spot was all down to Griezmann. Pogba’s precise range of passing was all down to Pogba.

France's players celebrate their third goal

Argentina played without any structure that would usually be in place to force an opposition to play through the lines, but the two-times World Champions had no organisation at the back. This meant that France could match up individual battles which they can win. Pogba will always beat Javier Mascherano one-on-one; Mbappe and Griezmann will always be able to get the better of Argentina’s defenders.

The accusation levelled at Deschamps is that he cannot find a system that gets the best out of his team, but against an attacking teams like Argentina, does it really matter?

2. Lionel Messi bows out without a grand finale

It was not meant to be. At no point did Argentina look like winning this game, and at no point have they ever looked like winning the tournament. This leaves Messi with a World-Cup-shaped hole in his illustrious career.

Missing the penalty against Iceland was foreshadowing of his tournament. His luck against Croatia in the 3-0 defeat did not pick up and he eventually found his feet when playing Nigeria.

But, against France, so much of Argentina’s attention was focused on him which meant that France could also focus so much of their attention on their star man. Pogba, Blaisé Matuidi and N’Golo Kante were always on hand to pinch the ball from him or halt his runs from deep before he could cause any serious damage.

Messi didn't get his moment

3. Argentina let down by discipline

Argentina have traditionally always been an imbalanced side, but this is one of the defensively weakest sides they've eve brought to the tournament.

Every time France came forward there was panic at the back. Nobody really knew who they were marking or what happened if the ball was shifted wide. The defending was all reactive, there was no plan or leadership.

Marcos Rojo picked up a yellow card in the first half and looked like the searing Kazan heat was getting to him. Jorge Sampaoli brought on Federico Fazio who was a significant downgrade and failed to contain France’s bright attacking players.

4. Kylian Mbappe announces himself on the world stage

If you had not taken note of Kylian Mbappe, well now you have. The world’s second most expensive player has been lighting up the French league and the Champions League, and now he has asserted himself at the World Cup.

His performances in the group stages were underselling what he can do. He grabbed a scrappy goal against Peru and put in a decent shift against Australia. But, this was only a fraction of what he can do, and against Argentina we got the whole package.

His seven second 77-yard run from inside his own box was reminiscent of an Olympic sprinter. He glided past defenders like they were cones on a training pitch and eventually came to a halt when Marcos Rojo brought him down in the box.

Mbappe scored twice in the second half 

He turned from provider to goal scorer in the second half when he grabbed his second goal of the tournament courtesy of poor goalkeeping. He collected the ball in a crowded penalty area that had defended a cross, took a touch to the left side, and fired a low shot through Franco Armani’s legs and in.

One goal became two when he collected Olivier Giroud’s poked through ball in his stride and then finished with the elegance of a certain Thierry Henry.

5. How Jose Mourinho can get the best out of Paul Pogba in a deeper role

Where best to play Paul Pogba? It’s a question that has had Manchester United fans ripping their hair out at. The French midfielder has largely been employed in a deeper position alongside Namanja Matic, or as a three with Ander Herrera for company. Naturally, in a Moruinho side there are always defensive responsibilities, but Pogba can, as he showed against Argentina, be an influential player from deep.

Against Argentina he was pulling strings in midfield. His quick thinking was allowing Mbappe to make runs in behind the defence with the knowledge that he would be found, and some of Pogba’s balls over the top to the PSG forward were up there with the best of the tournament.

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