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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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
“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.
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.