France, Uruguay Reach Last 8

France, Uruguay Reach Last 8France, Uruguay Reach Last 8

France has the youngest squad in the World Cup Russia knockout phase, but the team made up for a lack of experience with raw talent and character as it came from behind to beat Argentina 4-3 in a last-16 thriller on Saturday.

Les Bleus’ average age is 26 years - like England - and Kylian Mbappe is 19, but it was he who ran riot after France fell 2-1 behind early in the second half, Reuters reported.

Five players in France’s starting line-up had never played a World Cup game before coming to Russia but debutantes Mbappe and Benjamin Pavard found the back of the net when the team was in trouble.

“We were up against a highly experienced Argentine team but we showed we were there and the team showed they had character,” coach Didier Deschamps, who led France to World Cup glory as captain in 1998, told a news conference. “When we were 2-1 down it was not easy but we kept fighting. The mentality in the team is excellent.”

After opening the scoring with an Antoine Griezmann penalty, France looked too strong for Argentina, but the French wasted chances to bury their opponents and were punished either side of the break.

Angel Di Maria benefited from the French defense’s passiveness to equalize with a long-range cracker before Gabriel Mercado flicked Lionel Messi’s shot past Hugo Lloris.

It was a moment of truth for France, which could have crumbled under a mix of fear and disappointment, but Deschamps was never worried.

“We couldn’t miss it and we didn’t miss it,” said Deschamps, whose experience as a player and coach instills confidence in his squad.

“I’m not afraid, I’m not fearing anything. When this second (Argentina) goal was scored, it was a blow,” he said.

Pavard’s stunning half-volley restored parity, and Mbappe’s raw pace ultimately made the difference.

End of Messi’s Dream

Argentina’s elimination ended Messi’s dream of winning the World Cup. If Barcelona forward Messi, 31, does not continue until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he will end his national career without a major trophy for his country.

After winning a gold medal with Argentina in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, many expected the little forward to take his country to glory in a World Cup or at least the Copa America.

Yet despite his brilliance, and some talented team mates, Argentina has remained without such a trophy - losing to Germany in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals and suffering the same fate in the 2014 final in Rio.

 Good Refereeing

Alireza Faghani of Iran was tasked with refereeing the tie between France and Argentina at the Kazan Arena in Kazan.

The exciting match was Faghani’s third appointment in Russia 2018, after overseeing the Group E tie between Serbia and Brazil on June 27 and Group F match between Germany and Mexico on June 17. And similar to his previous matches, he showed an acceptable performance in making correct decisions and controlling the game. In the social media, his refereeing is seen by experts and the public as one of the best in the current tournament.

The experienced Iranian is appearing in his second FIFA World Cup. He has been assisted by compatriots Reza Sokhandan and Mohammadreza Mansouri.

 Cavani’s Brilliant Brace

Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani scored a stunning brace to lead the South Americans to a 2-1 win over European champion Portugal in the round of 16 on Saturday and set up a quarterfinal against France.

Cavani switched play with a long cross to Luis Suarez and continued his run to head home a pinpoint deep cross from the Barcelona forward and give Uruguay a seventh-minute lead.

Portugal defender Pepe made Uruguay pay for sitting back when he leapt unmarked to head in a cross from Raphael Guerreiro following a short corner to level the match at 1-1 in the 55th minute.

That was the first goal the twice World Cup champion had conceded in the tournament in Russia, but another moment of brilliance from Cavani put Uruguay back ahead seven minutes later.

The Paris St Germain forward curled in a right-foot shot from Rodrigo Bentancur’s pass to beat Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio before limping off injured in the 74th minute as the Uruguay defense dug in to hold on to the lead.

Uruguay will play France in the last eight on Friday and will wait with bated breath on the injury to man of the match Cavani, who has scored three goals in the tournament.

Portugal, which won Euro 2016 in France, dominated possession but their attack did not have enough bite to break through the steely Uruguay defense twice.

The European champion had 61% possession, played more than double the number of passes as Uruguay and had 20 attempts compared to six from the opponent but lost the match.

“I think there is often a mistaken assumption that possession leads to scoring opportunities,” Uruguay’s long-serving coach Oscar Tabarez said.  “We have to be strong in defense and we have great qualities and skills. Even if you don’t have a lot of possession you can inflict pain on your opponent.”

 Ronaldo Out

Similar to Messi, Ronaldo is out of World Cup as Portugal lost in the Round of 16.

Real Madrid’s Ronaldo, 33, is bitterly disappointed to be heading home early in the cup, however, he at least has the consolation of having won his country’s first ever European Championship, two years ago in France.

Ronaldo played a leadership role in that triumph and Portugal coach Fernando Santos said he hopes he will continue and help him with a new generation of players.

“Certainly, yes, Cristiano still has a lot to give to football. There is a tournament in September, the UEFA (Nations League) and we hope he will be with us to help the younger ones to grow,” Santos said.

Ronaldo struck a hat-trick in his opening game - a thrilling 3-3 draw with Spain, including a brilliant late free kick to level the match. He also grabbed the only goal in the 1-0 victory over Morocco but failed to deliver a penalty against Iran.

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