Edinson Cavani scores a brace to earn an 8 in our Uruguay ratings as they reach last eight of World Cup

Matt Jones 1/07/2018
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Uruguay edged past Portugal 2-1 as Edinson Cavani’s brace sent the South Americans soaring into the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

La Celeste got off to a sublime start in Sochi when Cavani emphatically nodded in a cross from strike partner Luis Suarez.

The European champions got back on level terms early in the second half when Pepe headed in Raphael Guerreiro’s hanging cross.

They weren’t level for long though, with Cavani curling Uruguay back in front with a superb effort seven minutes later.

Portugal pushed but with Cristiano Ronaldo uninspiring, Uruguay doggedly held on.

Here we rate the Uruguay players:

URUGUAY (4-3-1-2)

Fernando Muslera – 6:

A fairly quiet outing, although his handling was a little suspect. Could do nothing about Pepe’s equaliser.

Martin Caceres – 6:

Playing in a slightly unfamiliar role of right-back, but slotted in superbly. Relatively comfortable evening.

Jose Gimenez – 6:

Stood tall next to Godin but he’ll have harder evenings than this. 100 per cent pass accuracy, but only made 13.

Diego Godin – 6:

Solid and strong without ever having to be called into drastic action. Might have expected to be busier but didn’t really have to withstand a barrage from Portugal as Uruguay were relatively untroubled.

Diego Laxalt – 8:

Another youngster who’s impressed in Russia. Got a start at left-back and put in another stoic performance. Five tackles led Uruguay. Was superb.

Nahitan Nandez – 7:

A willing runner from midfield, always marauding forward in support of his forwards. Belied young years with a mature performance.

Lucas Torreira – 7:

A tenacious display as he put himself about, haranguing Portugal’s midfield and not giving them a moment’s peace. Late cramp was a sign of his efforts. Blocked four shots – more than the rest of his team combined.

Matias Vecino – 6:

Solid if unspectacular but kept watch and helped to shackle Portugal’s key men. A few poor touches but made two tackles and two clearances.

Rodrigo Bentancur – 7:

The 21-year-old has started all four games and has grown in stature with each game. Was fantastic here, his match summed up as he laid the ball into the path of Cavani for his fine curler.

Edinson Cavani – 8:

Unselfish and hard-working in the group, he came alive when his side needed him most. Towering header gave Patricio no chance and sumptuous curled effort made it 2-1.

Luis Suarez – 7:

Perfect cross for Cavani as the dynamic duo teamed up for their side’s crucial opener. Was an absolute pest for Portugal, a perfect performance without getting a goal.

SUBS:

Cristian Rodriguez – 6:

Came on to add his experience. Solid but fluffed badly late on when presented with a chance to win it.

Cristhian Stuani – 6:

Added some steel as Uruguay looked to hold onto their lead. Two fouls summed up his thinking.

Carlos Sanchez N/A:

Came on to give the tireless Nandez a breather.

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Kylian Mbappe transitions from Wonder Boy to Superhero as France knock out Argentina in an epic

Alex Rea 30/06/2018
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France roared back against Argentina to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday as Kylian Mbappe sent Lionel Messi home empty-handed following a seven-goal thriller.

Antoine Griezmann gave France the lead from the penalty spot but the South Americans levelled through a sweet hit from Angel Di Maria and edged ahead shortly after half-time through Gabriel Mercado.

But defender Benjamin Pavard equalised with a thunderous strike to pull France level before Mbappe netted two goals in four second-half minutes to become the first teenager to score at least twice in a World Cup match since Pele in 1958.

Sergio Aguero gave Argentina late hope but they ran out of time and head home. Here we examine the big talking points.

A SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER

France v Argentina: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Some contests contain one or two elements which make for great entertainment. Others hurtle into a space of near absurdity that you start to wonder if you’ve failed to suspend your imagination.

Indeed, France’s victory was a vomit of every epic motif you can think of, an instant classic only a bore would attempt to downplay.

While society is permeated by knee-jerk reactions through the quick-to-hand medium of social media, this deserves all acclaim because it’s impossible not to be swallowed up by its chaotic nature.

The lead was exchanged three times. There were seven goals in total – two of them (Pavard and Di Maria) were absolutely blockbuster, another (Mbappe’s second) was poetic in its simplicity and effectiveness.

And let’s first pause to discuss the glorious goals because they warrant entire scripts dedicated to them. Di Maria’s screamer was only matched for intensity by his wild shriek in celebration as the Paris Saint-Germain winger unleashed a beast of a left-footed strike beyond Hugo Lloris from 30-yards – the longest strike of the tournament so far.

After that, Pavard sent us all into a dizzying spin with a balletic effort of raw technique which is comfortably the best we’ve seen in Russia.

And not to be overshadowed, France’s fourth was a beautiful and brutal cut-throat counter-attack which started with Lloris and ended with Mbappe clinically grabbing his second.

Entwined within the plot twists, was the granting of A-list standing for Mbappe for a breakout performance while Messi, as far as the World Cup is concerned at least, was consigned to washed-up status.

Part one of the 2018 World Cup was memorable and thanks to this masterpiece, part two is threatening to stretch that narrative.

WONDER BOY IS THE SUPERHERO

France v Argentina: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

If the game was like a movie in its plot, then Mbappe was its star. The 19-year-old transitioned from his ‘Wonder Boy’ role and into ‘Superhero’ stature with a performance of piercing pace and perfect poise.

The visible panic on the faces of Argentina defenders every time the PSG man ran at them was one of the hallmarks of the clash.

And Paul Pogba deserves some credit here as well because if Mbappe was the bullet, he was holding the gun.

Indeed, the Manchester United creator barely needed to look up before firing accurate long balls into the teenager and a precisely lofted pass almost created another opportunity for Mbappe to vaporise the France backline as he earned a free-kick after his earlier slalom from deep in his own half led to the penalty.

Ultimately, though, Mbappe rightly leads the stellar reviews because his acceleration after changing direction, his ability to shift the ball out of congested areas and his fiercely calm finishing ability leads us to believe we’re witnessing a very special talent emerge onto the world stage.

A MESSI ENDING

France v Argentina: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

As we move through the commentary of this thriller, we reach a point of finality. Mbappe’s rise may well be in its infancy but for Messi and the World Cup, it is surely a sad climax.

The Barcelona icon will be 35 when the next tournament approaches and even if, physically, age is to be no barrier, the emotion of yet another Argentina heartache will lead to a break up.

The 31-year-old hinted before heading to Russia it could be his last outing with the national team and despite flirting with international retirement previously it’s unlikely he’ll cheat himself again.

Yet, there is an argument to be made that while this iteration of Argentina is nothing without Messi, it is also because of him they are nothing.

The rest of the squad seemed to devalue itself with their star, captain, maybe even coach on such a lofty pedestal.

The desperation of teammates to funnel the ball through to Messi seemed to tunnel their own natural thoughts and it created so many errors. A schism in the relationship could be what’s best for all parties.

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Anonymous Messi earns a 6 as Argentina crash out of the World Cup

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Lionel Messi's World Cup dream will have to be put on hold again.

Lionel Messi was powerless to prevent Argentina crashing out of the World Cup on Saturday after a 4-3 loss to France in their round of 16 clash.

Some of his teammates came to the fore instead, but it wasn’t enough to get their side into the quarter-finals.

Here’s how the players rated:

ARGENTINA

Franco Armani 5 – He should have done better with Mbappe’s first goal, which put France back on top and allowed them to keep the momentum going. A shaky performance all round.

Gabriel Mercado 6 – Knew nothing about his goal – indeed, he was trying to get his foot out of the way of Messi’s shot. Was put under the cosh by France’s speedy attack.

Marcos Rojo 3 – Couldn’t handle Mbappe’s pace, giving away a cheap penalty and struggling constantly. Was duly taken off at half-time.

Nicolas Otamendi 5 – Looked a far cry from the defender whose passing has made him a Pep Guardiola favourite at Manchester City. This was a thuggish performance – and a poor one.

Nicolas Tagliafico 5 – Among the many players made to look a step too slow by Mbappe, as the young Frenchman proved too much for his Argentine counterpart.

Enzo Perez 5 – Helped maintain possession but offered little thrust for Argentina. Looked a little unsure of himself.

Javier Mascherano 5 – A typically robust display in midfield, as Mascherano would pop up everywhere to try and get Argentina going. His age showed in a few mistimed tackles and was perhaps lucky to stay on the field.

Ever Banega 7 – Argentina’s best player on the day, as he tried as often as he could to find the perfect pass to unleash his attackers. It was his pass that found Di Maria in space to gloriously level the scores at 1-1.

Cristian Pavon 6 – Was an ever-willing runner on Argentina’s right side, but his crossing was wasteful.

Lionel Messi 6 – It says something about Messi’s quality that a below-par display from him still sees the Barcelona man get two assists. But he was well contained by France’s defence.

Angel Di Maria 7 – Scored an utter screamer to get Argentina back in the game, a much-needed goal as French had threatened to run away with the tie.

SUBSTITUTES

Federico Fazio 6 – Came on at the start of the second half for Rojo, but although he wasn’t as reckless, he didn’t fare much better against Mbappe and the rest of France’s attack.

Sergio Aguero 7 – Was largely anonymous after coming on from the bench, but scored a late header to give Argentina hope of an unlikely comeback.

Maximiliano Meza 6 – Came on for Pavon and played in much the same vein, not doing much to help his side be any more incisive.

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