We went minute-by-minute as France and Argentina met in the opening game of the knockout stages.
Hello! And welcome to our live coverage of today’s last-16 clash between France and Argentina. The knockout stages have finally arrived and what a game to kick us off.
Argentina have been an absolute mess throughout the World Cup so far but managed to claw themselves to this stage by sheer desire and a late, great Marcos Rojo winner in the dying stages against Nigeria.
Lionel Messi finally arrived with one of the goals of the tournament against Nigeria. If the Barcelona star puts up a similar performance against an uninspiring French side he could well win the game on his own.
This is going to be great.
Let’s get started with the team news…
So, today’s teams will line out as…
France: Lloris, Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernández, Kanté, Pogba, Mbappé, Griezmann, Matuidi, Giroud.
Argentina: Armani, Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico, Mascherano, E Pérez, Banega, Pavón, Messi, Di María.
This has all the makings of a World Cup classic, but who’s going to come out at top this afternoon and book their place in the last eight? Let us know below!
KICK-OFF: We’re underway in Kazan and the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup have begun!
A decent opening couple of minutes for Argentina concludes with Lionel Messi evading the challenge of Blaise Matuidi, before being hauled down by the midfielder. Messi’s team-mates aren’t happy with the rough handling of their star man this early in the game, but Argentina have a free-kick in a promising position nonetheless.
The free is pinged into the box, but Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti deal with it comfortably to boot the danger clear. Immediately Argentina regain possession and spring forward down the left flank, but Angel Di Maria’s cross flies across the box to no-one in particular.
El Diego is here and having a great time of it.
Crossbar! France very nearly break the deadlock with a brilliant free-kick from Antoine Griezmann. The Atletico forward had a pop from close range but his effort flies back off the woodwork to the relief of goalkeeper Franco Armani, who didn’t seem to have it covered whatsoever.
PENALTY! FRANCE ARE AWARDED A SPOT-KICK FOLLOWING A FOUL ON MBAPPE
A penalty within 10 minutes! Kylian Mbappe storms through midfield and into the box with remarkable speed before being hauled down by Marcos Rojo inside the area. The defender is shown a yellow card and France have the chance to take an early lead here.
GOAL! FRANCE 1-0 ARGENTINA (GRIEZMANN 13)
France are ahead as Antoine Griezmann sends Franco Armani the wrong way, sliding the ball into the bottom right corner. What a start to this game!
Mascherano straining to chase Mbappe is a good picture of man's inability to keep up with the pace of technology— Zito (@_Zeets) June 30, 2018
Chance! It’s very nearly another penalty for France but Kylian Mbappe is taken down just outside the box. The star forward plucks a pass from the air with so much ease before being hauled down right on the edge of the area. He is absolutely running the show at the moment.
Close but no cigar. Paul Pogba blasts the resulting free-kick well and truly over the crossbar. A really poor effort, but regardless France are bossing this game at the moment — Didier Deschamps’ star-studded side are dominating proceedings after 20 minutes.
Can someone tell the Argentinian defenders that Mbappe is quick?— John Arne Riise (@JARiiseOfficial) June 30, 2018
Griezmann’s penalty is the difference between the sides.
Griezmann almost puts his side two goals to the good. He cuts inside dangerously from the right flank with ease, but his final ball is gathered by the outstretched arms of Armani. France’s pace in the final third is cutting the Argentine defence to pieces.
No one between the lines for Argentina. Messi either wide-right or coming short. Sideways passing. And Dybala sits on the bench— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) June 30, 2018
A pair of chances at both ends. Messi attempts to cut inside from the right flank, but the attack fizzles out. Then — at the other end — Paul Pogba storms through an ocean of space in the middle of the park.
He picks out Mbappe, but the forward is thwarted thanks to a perfectly-timed tackle from Nicolas Tagliafico, denying a certain second for France as the PSG forward prepared to take aim and shoot.
A loud shout for a penalty as Lionel Messi goes down inside the area following a tackle from Antoine Griezmann tracking back. The referee is not one bit interested, however, and waves play on.
Almost! Benjamin Pavard links up brilliantly with Griezmann before sending a cross into the danger zone. Olivier Giroud tries his best to meet the high ball with his head, but it flies well wide.
GOAL! FRANCE 1-1 ARGENTINA (DI MARIA 41)
GOOOOOOOOAL! We’re all level as Angel Di Maria smacks a simply stunning effort into Hugo Lloris’s top corner. It’s one of the goals of the tournament — Di Maria took possession 25 yards out from goal before whipping a sublime strike right into the top corner of the net. What a goal, what a game!
There will be two minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the first half.
HALF-TIME: FRANCE 1-1 ARGENTINA
Goodness, what a half that was. For a good while it looked like Kylian Mbappe would lead France to a landslide win this afternoon as he tore the Argentine defence to pieces with pace, precision and power in the final third.
He was hauled down inside the box following a barnstorming run, giving Antoine Griezmann the chance to convert from the penalty spot — which he did.
Didier Deschamps side dominated proceedings thereafter, until Angel Di Maria had his say.
The PSG forward scored one of the goals of the World Cup to draw his level — swinging the ball into Hugo Lloris’ top corner with an exceptional long-range strike — and you really do feel that momentum has swung in Argentina’s favour.
More action to come shortly!
SECOND-HALF: We’re back underway at the Kazan Arena!
One switch for Argentina at the break as Federico Fazio replaces Marcos Rojo, who was on a booking after giving away the penalty which gave France an early lead after 13 minutes.
GOAL! FRANCE 1-2 ARGENTINA (MERCADO 48)
GOOOOOOOOOAL!!! Argentina are ahead, can you believe it! Lionel Messi teed up a shot on the edge of the area before it took a wicked deflection off Gabriel Mercado. The defender’s touch completely fooled Hugo Lloris, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way as the ball flew into the back of the net.
Whether Mercado meant to get the touch is besides the point — it’s his goal which has Argentina ahead just three minutes after the interval.
GOAL! FRANCE 2-2 ARGENTINA (PAVARD 58)
GOOOOOAAAAAL! Another goal and France have found an equaliser. It’s another beauty — this time the ball falls on the edge of the box to defender Benjamin Pavard who curls a brilliant effort with the outside of his boot into the back of the net. It’s 2-2 — what a game!
Two goals in the space of ten minutes and we’re back where we were at half-time. It’s absolutely end-to-end at the moment, with some of the goals being of immense quality this afternoon. It’s such a frantic game, played at a relentless pace, that you feel it could easily go either way. Breathtaking stuff.
GOAL! FRANCE 3-2 ARGENTINA (MBAPPE 64)
GOOOOOOOOAL!!!! This game is the gift that keeps on giving — we have another goal! Kylian Mbappe sweeps up possession as it bounces around causing all sorts of panic inside the Argentinian box, before dragging the ball across his body and into the back of the net with his left boot. It’s 3-2 France and we’ve had three goals in the space of 16 minutes!
GOAL! FRANCE 4-2 ARGENTINA (MBAPPE 68)
GOOOOOOALLLLL! Kylian Mbappe has added another and France are 4-2 ahead. This is just incredible. It’s a really brilliant team goal from France as they cut Argentina to pieces with some pinpoint passes all the way up the pitch from a Hugo Lloris kick-out.
The final ball sees Olivier Giroud tee the ball up for Mbappe and the PSG forward slams the ball into the far corner with an accurate finish. Argentina are falling apart in dramatic fashion.
Jorge Sampaoli has to change something fast — he brings on Maximiliano Meza in place of Cristian Pavon. His side have a little under 15 minutes to grab two goals and try and bring this to extra-time.
Argentina are pushing and pushing, but are getting no joy. Messi dances through a host of challenges before offloading possession to Meza, but the substitute can only cross into the arms of Lloris. Frustration is growing.
Please FIFA don’t let this World Cup end. Ever.— Richie Sadlier (@RichieSadlier) June 30, 2018
Chance! Javier Mascherano wins back possession and picks out Messi. The forward jinks through a host of challenges throughout the penalty area, but he can’t get enough power on his strike to beat Lloris. It’s just not been his day as the clock ticks down.
There will be four minutes of additional time to come at the end of the second half.
GOAL! FRANCE 4-3 ARGENTINA (AGUERO 93)
GOAL! Argentina cut the deficit to one as Sergio Aguero pops up with a header inside the box courtesy of an excellent Lionel Messi cross. It’s 4-3 and Argentina have a minute to try and grab an equaliser here!
FULL-TIME: FRANCE 4-3 ARGENTINA