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Argentina shouldn’t look for blame | Coastweek

KAZAN Russia (Xinhua) -- Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris [bottom] of France misses a goal of Argentina's Gabriel Mercado during the 2018 FIFA World Cup round of 16 match between France and Argentina in Kazan, Russia, June 30, 2018. France won 4-3 and advanced to the quarter-final. XINHUA PHOTO - LI MING

Argentina shouldn’t look for blame, they need
to look for solutions after World Cup failure

By Sportswriter Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- A curse on the songwriters Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber for that song ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ from their hit musical ‘Evita’. That song has been on of the recurring themes of the World Cup finals as Argentina limped through the group stage with a draw against Iceland, a 3-0 defeat to Croatia and a 2-1 win over Nigeria, and it got another airing on Saturday as they crashed out of the World Cup following a 4-3 defeat to France.

There had been hopes in Argentina that the Marcos Rojo’s late goal against Argentina would be a turning point; a footballing line in the sand that would allow Argentina to press on and show their true footballing selves.

Unfortunately for Argentina and coach Jorge Sampaoli, that is what they did.

That goal against Nigeria wasn’t the reality of what this Argentina side are, it was the exception and after a brave first half in which they sacrificed a forward in an attempt to swamp the midfield, Griezmann, Mbappe and company showed the ugly truth: Argentina are a side built around Lionel Messi and when Messi doesn’t function there is nobody else to pick up the pieces.

“We have the best player in the World, we tried to surround him and to be close to him and we did in some moments,” said Sampaoli after the defeat (which was much clearer than the final score suggests).

The problem is he surrounded him with players such as Javier Mascherano and Enzo Perez and although you might win a fight with that duo beside you, you most certainly are not going to win the World Cup.

It’s not Mascherano’s fault he came to Russia aged 33, after 5 months playing in China and in obvious decline, while Perez left Valencia a year ago with the club prepared to lose a staggering 30 million euros on what they paid for him, it’s the coach’s fault for playing them.

Sampaoli was unforgivably reluctant to start Ever Banega, only putting the playmaker into the side after a rumored dressing room revolt, while Paulo Dybala, arguably one of Argentina’s most talented players, spent most of the tournament watching from the sidelines along with Gonzalo Higuain.

Higuain may have his detractors, but he would have been useful against France, pressing up the pitch and providing a challenge for the French central defenders, while Kun Aguero actually showed what a threat he can be with Argentina’s third goal (from a Messi pass).

Although the supporting cast were poor and Argentina would have struggled to have won the World Cup even with Messi at his best, it’s obvious Messi was below par: whether he was tired after a long season helping to carry FC Barcelona to a Spanish domestic double, or simply knew it was a hopeless task after dragging his country to two Copa America finals and also to Russia, there was little spark from him.

Stats showed he covered around 24 kilometers in Argentina’s first three matches (compare that to Christian Eriksen’s 36 kilometers)... That means Messi was literally playing at walking pace.... And still he was the focal point of all Argentina’s football.

Maybe in time we will discover why Messi was below his best, maybe we will understand why Sampaoli: previously a lover of attacking football, seemed to betray his footballing beliefs, maybe the coach knew deep inside he just didn’t have the talent available to him and that is the big worry.

Argentina has so long been a breeding ground for great footballers, a country that has the game in its soul, with a seemingly unending factory of young talent. If that talent has suddenly dried up they are in real trouble and not Messi, nor Dybala, nor Kun Aguero can save them from a spell in the World Cup wilderness.

Now is not the time for Argentina to look for blame, it is the moment to look for a solution. 

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UPDATES:

France send Argentina packing 4-3 at World Cup

KAZAN Russia (Xinhua) -- Teenage striker Kylian Mbappe scored two goals to help France defeat Argentina 4-3 as France reached last eight at the World Cup in Russia on Saturday.

Mbappe won a penalty for France in the first half, and then scored two goals of his own in the second half at Kazan Arena.

“I’ve always said that in the World Cup you have all the top players so it is an opportunity to show what you can do,” said Mbappe, who was elected the Man of the Match. “There is no better place than the World Cup.”

Antoine Griezmann scored from the penalty spot in the 13th minute to give France a 1-0 lead after Mbappe was fouled by Argentina fullback Marcos Rojo.

Angel Di Maria equalized for Argentina with a superb long-range strike before the halftime whistle.

Argentina briefly took the lead in the 48th minute with a strike from defender Gabriel Mercado, but France right back Benjamin Pavard equalized just nine minutes later with a volley that was the equal of Di Maria’s stunner.

After pulling even, France simply took control of the match. Mbappe, 19, restored his team’s lead with two goals in five minutes to make it 4-2. Argentina finally got their third goal in the stoppage time when substitute Sergio Aguero headed in a Lionel Messi cross.

Argentina needed one more goal to stay in the game, but the 31-year-old Messi and his teammates were out of time.

“Our team is very younger, but we played well in the match,” France coach Didier Deschamps said after the match. “It was not easy because we were leading and then there was an equalizer. Then they led again, but we never gave up. I’m so satisfied that my boys are mentally strong. We gave it all out to win this match and we did it.”

“France were playing very fast, and we made too many mistakes,” Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said. “We once had the chance to turn around the match but we just lost our advantages.”

France will be in the quarterfinals taking on either Uruguay or Portugal.

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France celebrates victory against Argentina following spectacular match

PARIS France (Xinhua) -- French President Emmanuel Macron did not delay in reacting on social networks to the victory of the French football team, who defeated Argentina 4-3 in the first round of 16 World Cup match on Saturday.

Macron, a fan of the beautiful game, congratulated Les Bleus and reiterated his promise to go see them play after the quarterfinals next Friday, when they will meet Uruguay.

Speaking on the French TF1 television channel, head coach Didier Deschamps expressed his happiness, “It was a great display, there were errors of course, we were in bad shape at 2-1, we could have made the end of the match easier, but there were a lot of emotions.

“It’s only happiness, it has been weeks that we have been preparing for this. We said we were here. There are always criticisms, we made some errors, but we made the Argentinians suffer. Now, we have to take advantage, we have six days ahead of us,” he said.

Twenty years after the first victory of the World Cup trophy for France, France are under strong expectations by their pubic in this tournament.

At 19, Kylian Mbappe, elected man of the match, sealed the win and entered the record books in becoming the youngest player to have scored three goals in a World Cup.

“We are content. I felt good, like my teammates and we told ourselves that together we could do beautiful things. We had a complicated group phase, but there you have it, against a big team, great players, we succeed to play a full match.” he said at the end of the match, speaking to BeIN Sports.

During this post-match interview, his teammate Antoine Griezmann, euphoric, literally snatched the microphone in his hands to shout: “Long live France and long live the Republic!”

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Mascherano sets new World up record before announcing his retirement

By Sportswriter Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- The veteran Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano announced his retirement from international football on Saturday, but not before setting a new World Cup record.

The 33-year-old former FC Barcelona player, who now plays in China, confirmed he was retiring from the Argentina national team following their 4-3 defeat to France on Saturday.

“From now on I will be another supporter,” he confirmed to the press.

Even if Argentina had progressed into the last 8 of the World Cup, Mascherano would not have been able to play because of suspension after seeing his second yellow card of the tournament against France.

That card saw the midfielder set a new record as the player who has seen the most yellow cards in the history of the World Cup.

The yellow card he saw in his 20th appearance in a game in the World Cup finals, was the seventh he has seen at this stage of the competition and means he has been booked more than anyone in the history of World Cup finals.

Previously Mascherano had been on six yellow cards, the same as former French international Zinedine Zidane, Brazilian defender Cafu and veteran Mexican defender, Rafael Marquez, who has could equal Mascherano’s record if he sees yellow during Mexico’s last 16 game against Brazil in Samara on Monday.

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Mascherano retires from national team after World Cup elimination

BUENOS AIRES Argentina (Xinhua) -- Argentinian  midfielder Javier Mascherano announced his retirement from national team on Saturday, following Argentina’s 4-3 loss to France.

The former Barcelona player made the announcement on Argentinian television saying, “It’s time to say goodbye.”

“The story has ended, I think we gave everything right until the end,” said the 34-year-old.

He will now concentrate on his club football, where he plays as a defender for the Chinese Super League club, Hebei China Fortune.

“I hope the guys that follow can win a title. Now, I must support them from the outside. I’m sure sooner or later we’ll get there,” he added.

Mascherano admitted that France were the better team over the 90 minutes and said the defeat in Kazan had “shattered the illusion.”

Answering a question about whether his decision could be followed by those of other players, including Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero or Gonzalo Higuain, he replied, “More than anything I hope they keep going. That’s what life is all about, to keep trying.”

Mascherano said that defeat against France was “a really crazy game” and that France clawing their way back to 2-2, after Argentina had been in front “did a lot of damage” to the South American team.

“It was hard to lift ourselves up, we gave everything until the end”, he emphasized, adding that “when you’re empty, you have to admit that your rival is better.”

Mascherano competed in four editions of World Cup tournaments. He was part of the team that reached the final of the 2014 Brazil World Cup only to be beaten by Germany

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Argentine president thanks players after World Cup defeat to France

BUENOS AIRES Argentina (Xinhua) -- Argentine President Mauricio Macri on Saturday expressed his gratitude for the efforts of the national team after they were eliminated by France from the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“Sad though very grateful to the players who gave their all. Today the French beat us well,” he said through Twitter.

France prevailed 4-3 in Saturday’s exciting game. A penalty converted by Antoine Griezmann in the 13th minute, a glorious volley from Benjamin Pavard (minute 57) and two goals from Kylian Mbappe on 64 and 68 minutes, sealed the game for Les Bleus.

Argentina fought hard, scoring through Angel Di Maria (minute 41), Gabriel Mercado (minute 48) and Sergio Aguero (minute 93), but could not find a fourth.

France will now face Uruguay in the quarter-finals.

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