Having progressed through their group with relative comfort, France’s round of 16 clash against Argentina served as their first real test of the tournament.
Facing Jorge Sampaoli’s stuttering yet highly talented outfit, who are always a threat due to the threat of Lionel Messi and his wicked fellow attackers, France knew they’d have to lift their game to make sure of the result. They certainly did, as they overcame the Argentines 4-3 in an absolute thriller.
In what was a truly pulsating contest, where Didier Deschamps’ men even went behind in the second half, their pace and guile in attacking areas from the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann ultimately proved far too much for the Albiceleste backline to handle.
Mbappe especially was a real menace, with his expertly timed runs in behind, blistering pace, dynamism on the dribble and cool finishing wreaking havoc. Indeed, this was something Sampaoli spoke of after the match, explaining: “They have very fast players who are good at moving from defence to attack, and that’s exactly what Mbappé did. Mbappé was difficult to control for us. When you are to meet a player like Kylian or Leo of course you make a plan to control them, but if they have a day like Mbappé did today then it’s very difficult to make the plan work.”
In spite of their victory, questions will be asked of France’s performance, with their inability to take control of the game and some sloppy defensive efforts ensuring they conceded three goals. In addition, the fact it took going behind to spark them back into life will be a another worrying aspect for Deschamps to confront.
On the flipside, the way this young team showed immense character to fight back will have given them tremendous confidence moving into the quarter-finals.
For now though, France deserve to enjoy their monumental triumph. But their attention will quickly turn to a fiercely determined and resolute Uruguay side, who possesses a formidable defence and a splendid strikeforce.
It’ll be unquestionably be fascinating to see if Les Bleus can rise to the occasion yet again and continue in their quest for World Cup glory.
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