Dreams can endure only so long before they are overwhelmed by reality – and there are few realities quite so brutally uncompromising as the pace and finishing of Kylian Mbappé, who scored twice and won a penalty in France’s 4-3 win.
After a grim trudge through the group stage, France, finally, are off and running and looking like potential champions. Lionel Messi, for all the hopes freighting his slight frame, will not be winning the World Cup this time.
Full-time! France 4 Argentina 3
France are into the quarter-final! Argentina are out!
Meza almost finds an equaliser at the very last but he can’t control Di Maria’s cross.
GOAL!!! France 4 Argentina 3 (Aguero 90+3)
Messi lofts over a superb cross and Aguero heads in. Game on!
76 min France 4 Argentina 2
Changes for both sides. For Argentina it’s Pavon off, Meza on. For France: Matuidi off, Tolisso on.
So Higuain and Dybala won’t feature for Argentina.
France almost get a fifth as Giroud slices into the side netting from Pogba’s pass. Pogba is absolutely bossing the midfield – Argentina can’t get near him.
GOAL!!! France 4 Argentina 2 (Mbappe 68 min)
France double their lead! Mbappe does it again with an absolutely clinical finish – passed into the far corner from the right-hand side of the box. Set up by a gorgeous assist from Giroud.
GOAL!!! France 3 Argentina 2 (Mbappe 64′)
France are back in front! And it’s the best player on the pitch Kylian Mbappe. The youngster seizes on Hernandez’s cross that squirms loose in the box, dummies past a defender and gets in a shot left-footed that squeezes under Armani.
GOAL!!!! France 2 Argentina 2 (Pavard 57 min)
What goal! What a game! What a sport! Hernandez’s cross from the left evades everyone, but his fellow full-back Pavard strides onto the ball and cuts across it beautifully into the far corner. Absolutely unbelievable. Think Nacho’s goal for Spain against Portugal, but even better.
57 min France 1 Argentina 2
Horrible moment for Fazio but Argentina survive! The defender passes the ball beyond his keeper Armani but mercifully for him Griezmann can’t quite squeeze the ball home. Griezmann was actually being fouled by the keeper as he went to turn that in, but there’s no appeal or on-pitch review.
GOAL!!! France 1 Argentina 2 (Mercado 48 min)
Argentina have turned it around. Di Maria’s free-kick is only cleared to Messi, whose shot is volleyed home by Mercado. Not sure how much he knew about that but Argentina don’t care!
France will be furious at going into half-time level. They’ve been the better side and in Mbappe have had by far the game’s most dangerous player. But they switched off for that Di Maria goal and will find it harder in the second half against a team that will no longer need to push forward so much.
I just hope the two teams don’t get spooked by the prospect of going out and effectively declare at around the hour mark. You see that happening in so many major tournament knockout games where there’s this much at stake.
Half-time France 1 Argentina 1
The whistle goes and we’re all square at the break. What a game!
Incidentally, you’d surely get long odds on Mascherano staying on the pitch here. He seems absolutely desperate for a red.
GOAL! France 1 Argentina 1 (Di Maria 41 min)
What a goal from Di Maria! He’s spanked one in from about 30 yards. He’s afforded way too much space and leathers the ball into the corner beyond Lloris’s despairing dive. Sensational.
GOAL!!!! France 1 Argentina 0 (Griezmann pen 13 min)
France lead! Griezmann strokes the penalty to Armani’s right, with the keeper diving the other way.
Argentina looked to be heading out of the World Cup after a thumping 3-0 defeat by Croatia, before an 86th-minute Marcos Rojo saved them against Nigeria.
Whether Rojo’s moment of salvation will prove to be a stay of execution or the springboard to something greater we will soon find out, but the signs so far are that this is a team devoid of any coherent strategy.
Manager Jorge Sampaoli appears to have completely lost control – witness his bizarre conversation with Lionel Messi about whether to being on Sergio Aguero against Nigeria – and hasn’t even come close to figuring out a way to get the best out of his thrilling front-line.
Messi of course is the main dangerman, and today could well come down to how well France are able to muzzle him.
Deschamps’ repeated refrain yesterday of “Messi is Messi” doesn’t fill you with confidence that he’s concocted a masterplan to stop the Argentine, but perhaps is he’s put a little more thought into it than he’s letting on.