French knockout Argentines with flair

Final score France Argentina from Fifa site

Wow! What a match. The score line at the end of it looks like a nail biter, to be honest it was not. However it was tense for sure.

Final score France Argentina from Fifa site
Final score France Argentina from Fifa site

 

It started with a penalty, a direct result of the Argentine back not able to contain the explosive speed of Mbappe. Greizmann slotted in a good penalty for France to take lead 1 – 0.

All was ok as the match had only just begun, but it made two things evident immediately. Mbappe was too fast for the Argentine defence, and it was clear that overall Argentina had a weak defence. This came to fore almost immediately when one more foul was drawn by Mbappe but luckily for Argentina it was at the edge of the box. Further Greizmann’s beautiful free kick rattled the bar giving a lifeline to Argentina.

France 1 – 0 Argentina

The rest of the first half was underscoring the French game, with decent defence and great counter attacks. Till Di Maria conjured up a goal out of nowhere, a fantastic curving rocket of a ball. Could have been the goal of the night if it was not for what was to follow. At least it helped Argentina to go into half time equal at 1-1.

France 1 – 1 Argentina

Argentina made a change which was confusing and I don’t think it really helped. If anything it seems to confuse the back even more.

Within 5 mins finally we saw a Messi kick. To be honest while timely it might have gone straight to the goalkeeper if not for a struggling Mercado trying to get his leg out of the way, failing but providing just the right deflection for the ball to go into the French net. Messi was not complaining and Argentina had their hopes up again with 2-1 lead.

France 1 – 2 Argentina

And then came a great goal followed by a force of nature against an useless defence.

First a fantastic curving half volley from Benjamin Pavard. I believe his first world cup goal ever and at what a time. Beautiful one that.

France 2 – 2 Argentina.

Then Argentina sleep at the back and basically allow Mbappe a free way to attack the Argentine goal. This after the defence almost gave away a goal by kicking it beyond Armani just a few minutes ago. Well Mbappe was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth again, and easily scored, taking France ahead 3-2

France 3-2 Argentina.

And then again Argentina could make no impact and France counter attacked well. And Mbappe again created a chance and scored. Armani could have probably stopped the ball with his legs but the question is what was the defence doing?

France 4-2 Argentina

In principle Argentina still have a chance as the time was just 68′. Also Aguero was finally in the game (god knows why he was not starting) However watching the game it felt like Los Albicelestes and Messi did not seem to be effective. So as an Argentina supporter it was a painful 30 mins or so when Argentina was ineffectual in scoring.

 

In the 3rd minute of extra time we finally see some magic with Messi kicking a beautiful pass to the front and Aguero slipping past the defence to head it in. GOOOAL! A beautiful goal, but would it be too little too late?

France 4-3 Argentina

A miracle almost happened in the final seconds with the ball going tantalizingly close to the goal, but it was not to be. Argentina is out and Messi’s world cup journeys are done. The coach and the team have a lot to answer too, and their fans surely deserve to know why many of the decisions were taken.

However for anyone watching the entire match it was very clear that the better team won. In fact France played solidly enough that they could go the whole way if they continue to play like this.

As a football fan it was a great match to watch for sure. Just feel sad for the Argentinian fans as they would surely have expected much more. Though the early fouls made me feel like it might be a very physical match, it turned out to be a much more fluid encounter with a lot for football fans to enjoy.

 

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Knockout stages are here – 2018 World Cup

Well I have been lax about writing here. Watching the matches and work have taken up all my life this past couple of weeks with very little sleep in the middle. Have really enjoyed the games I have watched though. No Maradona, Pele, Zidane or Van Basten but still fun.

While I will revisit the group stages again just wanted to put in my thoughts around the Knockouts. Looking at the 16 teams that made, it I went with my heart for the top half and with the head for the second half 🙂

The fixtures are as below:

Knockout fixtures for World Cup 2018 - from the Fifa.com site
Knockout fixtures for World Cup 2018 – from the Fifa.com site

 

My predictions:

  1. Argentina to defeat France:
    • France has not really given much confidence and Argentina have played dismally and then wonderfully. No idea which game Argentina will play. Would love to see a Messi – Ronaldo play off so voting for Argentina.
    • France are already up 1 goal through penalty as I write this 🙂
    • France get another free kick at the edge of the penalty box. Mbappe is too fast for this Argentinian defence. Argentina was luck to not have that free kick work in France’s favor.
  2. Portugal to defeat Uruguay:
    • Again no real reason to choose one over the other. Portugal will absolutely depend on Ronaldo while Uruguay may depend less on Suarez. Eitherways their games have confused me so going with my hope of seeing Messi and Ronaldo face off. So Portugal to win.
  3. Spain to defeat Russia:
    • Russia impressed with the first two games and then totally let it go in the third. So I will vote on Spain hoping that they can shut out Russia and win.
  4. Croatia to defeat Denmark:
    • Coming into the Finals I felt Denmark would do well. They are okay. But Croatia really impressed so my vote is for them. In fact currently I expect them to reach the finals.
  5. Brazil to defeat Mexico:
    • Mexico has played well but my heart is with Brazil, with Tiago Silva and Neymar and Marcelo. So I have to hope for a Brazilian victory. In fact I want them to take the whole shebang.
  6. Belgium to defeat Japan:
    • While I would love to support an Asian team, Japan’s game has not given a confidence that they are intent on winning. And Belgium seem unbeatable with many expecting them to win the Cup itself. So it feels fair to vote for the stronger team.
  7. Sweden to beat Switzerland:
    • This should be a tight match. I would have voted for Switzerland till I saw the final games of Sweden. If they play like in those games I think they should win.
  8. England to beat Colombia:
    • England, especially Kane, has really impressed me. I can see them go to next round if they play to their potential.

 

Now to get back to the Argentina game!

Morocco – Iran

I had no idea of either team so was supporting Iran, on virtue of them being Asian. The game was tight and fun to watch. Both goalkeepers were tested and both stood up to the test. Iran was playing a little more freely than Morocco to my inexperienced eyes but still the match was a battle of equals.

My prediction was Iran winning by 1-0.

My prediction came true but it was bittersweet as it was a self goal by Morocco! Felt unfair after all the efforts they put in but I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles (or ball rolls)! Still I was glad to get a lot of points for my predictions 🙂 I hope both the minnows play like lions in their remaining two matches.

Final Score: Iran wins 1-0

Egypt – Uruguay

I missed the Egypt – Uruguay fixture. I was very much upset with Suarez in the last world cup because I was really looking up to him then. I remember calling him a “biting personality” Still I do like Uruguay so thought they would win especially since Mohammed Salah would not be playing.

Hence my prediction for this game was, Uruguay wins 2-1.

Well a combination of great goalkeeping, good defence and lack of closing by Uruguay resulted in a much tighter score. Egypt played well and one was almost sad it was not a draw but it will be interesting how Egypt plays in the next two games, when Salah is back. Also keeping an eye out to see if Suarez will start his scoring soon.

Final scoreline – Uruguay wins 1-0

Kickoff the Tournament: Russia – Saudi Arabia

 

Russia v/s Saudi Arabia to start the World Cup 2018. I don’t think anyone really thought Saudi would win and my predictions were along the same line.

I predicted Russia winning 2-0. I don’t think Russia would win it 5-0. Not much to write about the game itself except Saudi really felt cooped up. Still it was a fun match to watch and after four years I am enjoying football again 🙂

 

Final Score: Russia wins 5-0