Teen star leads France to quarterfinals
KAZAN, Russia — What Lionel Messi has never done, 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe did twice.
The quick-footed French teenager scored two goals in a five-minute span of the second half to help his team rally for a 4-3 victory over Argentina. Saturday’s victory gave France a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Messi, who turned 31 during his fourth and possibly final World Cup, set up a pair of goals but again failed to score in a knockout match at the biggest event in soccer. Mbappe got his two in his first attempt. “Of course, as I’ve already and always said, in the 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,” said Mbappe, who now has three goals in Russia. “There is no better place than a World Cup.”
Mbappe was a constant threat to Argentina’s creaking defense with his speed and skill and was at the heart of France’ s often-breathtaking display, particularly in the middle of the second half.
He became the second teenager to score multiple goals in a knockout match at the World Cup. Pele was the other, doing it twice at 17 at the 1958 tournament in Sweden.
“It is flattering to be the second one after Pele but let’s put things in context. Pele is another category,” Mbappe said. “But it’s good to be among the players to score in knockout matches.”
With the score 2-2, Mbappe got his first goal with a cool finish from a tight angle in the 64th minute, his low shot going under Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani. Four minutes later, he slotted past Armani again.
Mbappe also helped France to its first goal. Following a sustained period of early pressure, he won a penalty after a 40-meter burst of speed that ended with him being brought down by Marcos Rojo. Antoine Griezmann then scored from the spot in the 13th minute, sending Armani the wrong way.
“Our team is much younger, but we are there. We answered the call,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “It was not easy because we were leading and then there was an equalizer. Then they led 2-1, but we kept fighting. There is an excellent mentality in this group and we did everything to go further. We couldn’t miss it and we did win it.”
France’s Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal during the round of 16 match between France and Argentina at the Kazan Arena in Kazan, Russia.