France beat Argentina 4-3 in a wonderful World Cup round of 16 match. What does this mean going forward for Les Bleus?
It all happened so quickly. With the ball at his feet, he ran about 70 yards, raced past Argentina’s defense and won France a penalty. Antoine Griezmann converted, but it was all set up by the frightening pace of Kylian Mbappe.
Even while Argentina scored twice to take the lead, it was only a matter of time before France kicked into higher gear. And when they did, not even the great Lionel Messi could muster something to keep his dreams alive. Mbappe scored France’s third and fourth, and was the difference in one of the best matches of the tournament.
Despite conceding twice, France finally delivered a performance worthy of their status as tournament favorites. Their attack was clicking and their midfield was wonderful in transition from back to front. This will no doubt bode well for the quarterfinals, when they face either Uruguay or Portugal. But Didier Deschamps will still have to be wary of how he prepares his team.
Blaise Matuidi is out for the next game due to yellow card accumulation, something that may seem a worry for most teams, but France have enough depth to cover. N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba once again performed well in midfield, while doing just enough defensively to help the attack on the counter.
Defensively, there are worries. Despite Benjamin Pavard’s sensational goal, they conceded three goals to a team that scored three goals total in the group stage. That’s troubling no matter who they face in the quarters and beyond. Their backline remains unconvincing, and has been guilty of switching off at times, as evidenced by Sergio Aguero’s late header.
Yet, one can’t help but feel good about France’s performance. They waltzed through Argentina’s midfield with ease, and at times looked a class above them. Their prowess on the counter-attack is down right scary, with Mbappe showing he’s got football in the palm of his hands. Even while their defense is suspect and their manager is still a liability, France are slowly but surely playing better. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the field. Only France can beat themselves.