Benjamin Pavard celebrates scoring one of the goals of the tournament as France beat Argentina 4-3.
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.
On the same day Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal were dumped out of the tournament thanks to an inspired display from Edison Cavani. Uruguay booked their place in the World Cup quarter-finals with an excellent 2-1 win.
Not that anyone believed Cavani isn’t a star player in his own right, but when Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo were given top billing for this game, it wasn’t the least bit controversial, even though there are plenty who think Cavani has surpassed Suarez as his country’s top player.
No matter. On Saturday, Cavani wasn’t just his team’s leading light, he was the best player on the pitch.
His two goals showcased just how well-rounded he is as a striker. He released Suarez with a wonderful cross-field pass and then finished off a brilliant long-range one-two with a run into the box to put a superb header past Rui Patricio, and then he produced a beautiful curling finish to round off a sweeping Uruguay counter-attack for what turned out to be the winning goal.
Being the outstanding player in a World Cup knockout game is a surefire way to stamp yourself into footballing memory. Just ask Cavani – he and Uruguay were on the receiving end at the last tournament when James Rodriguez scored twice as Colombia knocked them out.
Cavani probably won’t be following in James’ footsteps with a big-money move to Real Madrid because of Saturday’s showing. He’ll have to be satisfied with playing in the World Cup quarter-finals.
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