Even Lionel Messi could do little to salvage Argentina’s World Cup dreams, as it came to an end against the French. Here are a few reasons why the Albicelestes couldn’t cross the finish line.
77 yards in 7 seconds
Mbappe’s bursts of speed were too much for Argentina to handle. For France’s first goal, he sprinted 77 yards in 7 seconds, with his maximum speed touching 38kmph. The exhilarating run ended with Marcus Rojo bringing him down in the box; the penalty converted coolly by Greizmann. He showed off the deftness of his touch to score his first goal and displayed the elegance of Thierry Henry for his second. Strange to say this for the world’s second-most expensive player but this was the 19-year-old’s coming-of-age match.
The decision to deploy Messi as a false nine supremely backfired. The forward played that role devastatingly well during Guardiola’s time at Barcelona but that was when he was supported by Alexis Sanchez and Pedro. Here, he only has a bunch of clueless teammates who, once again, struggled to even get the ball to Messi. His heat-map shows that despite playing as false 9, Messi spent majority of the first half wide on the right, near the half line. Once again, Sampaoli got his tactics all wrong.
4 matches, 4 formations
Sampaoli’s inability to figure out a plan was evident when he named his fourth different line-up in as many matches this World Cup. In fact, he hasn’t repeated the same 11 in any of his 15 games in charge of Argentina. His substitutions weren’t inspiring enough, most of it reactionary. Each time France rushed forward, there was panic. Nobody knew who they were marking or what to do when going forward. There was no plan or leadership.
Lifeline for France
Like Sampaoli, Didier Deschamps too has been accused of not knowing what to do with a squad brimming with attacking talent. The goalless draw against Denmark put more pressure on him and the players, it was being suggested they may not go as far in the tournament as it was expected. But France’s individuals were allowed to control the game, eventually culminating with a solid collective performance. But whether they have genuinely peaked, or were made to look good by Argentina will be a question up for debate.
Effective in possession
Deschamps’ decision to play Pogba in a deep role worked perfectly for France. Argentina had more possession (60 to 40), more touches (656 compared to 489) and more accurate passes (431 to 274). But France were more effective when they had the ball, with Pogba orchestrating from the middle. His vision and quick thinking allowed Mbappe to make his runs behind the defence. Some of the aerial balls Pogba played, too, were top of the line.