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WORLD CUP

France beat Messi’s Argentina 4-3 to reach World Cup quarter-finals

France beat Lionel Messi's Argentina 4-3 in a thrilling last 16 World Cup match on Saturday as teenager Kylian Mbappe scored two goals in a superb performance in Kazan.

France beat Messi's Argentina 4-3 to reach World Cup quarter-finals
France's forward Kylian Mbappe (2R) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's fourth goal against Argentina on Saturday. Photo: SAEED KHAN / AFP
The 1998 champions won 4-3 and looked a different side from the one that struggled to find their cutting edge in the group stage, pouring forward with pace and purpose to stretch the ageing Argentine defence in Kazan.
 
Antoine Griezmann gave France the lead from the penalty spot but the South Americans levelled after a sweet hit from Angel Di Maria and edged ahead shortly after half-time through Gabriel Mercado.
 
But defender Benjamin Pavard equalised with a thunderous strike to pull France level and once more change the complexion of the game. That set the scene for 19-year-old Mbappe, who netted two goals in four second-half minutes to become the first teenager to score at least twice in a World Cup match since Pele in 1958.
 
Sergio Aguero gave Argentina late hope but they ran out of time and head home after a rollercoaster ride in Russia that ultimately ends in bitter disappointment for the two-times former champions.
 
Man-of-the-match Mbappe brushed off the Pele comparisons.
 
“I'm very happy and it's flattering to be the second teenager (to score twice in the knock-out rounds) after Pele but let's put things in context: Pele is in another category, but it's good to be among these people,” he said.
 
Coach Deschamps salutes 'great' performance

 
Coach Didier Deschamps said France had responded to their critics with a “great” performance. France struggled to convince during the group stage of the tournament in Russia and Deschamps said he was happy they had finally lived up to expectations.
 
“We had to respond (to the critics) and we responded well,” he said. “Criticism is always there. But there is truth on the pitch and (the response) came through a strong and quality performance which we delivered tonight. We made Argentina suffer.”
 
“It was a great fixture and a great match,” he told TF1. “There were mistakes, obviously. We started badly at 2-1 down but we knew what we needed to do. We could have kept things a bit simpler near the end of the game, though.
 
“There was a lot of emotion. I am happy for the players who went out to get this qualification for the quarter-finals. As I told them before the game, we have been preparing for months, for weeks to play matches like that.”
 
Ragged Argentina
 
Beaten finalists four years ago, Argentina only reached the last 16 by the skin of their teeth after a shambolic group phase and despite a brave effort against France, their ageing squad and lack of balance ultimately caught up with them.
 
Messi, at the age of 31, may have played his last World Cup game in a career curiously unfulfilled at international level despite his astonishing achievements with Barcelona and his multiple individual awards. 
 
France will play either Uruguay or Portugal in the last eight. Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo — with his eternal rival Messi now out of the way — will be looking to further burnish his reputation against Uruguay in Sochi.

FOOTBALL

France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

READ ALSO: France coach laments 'failure' as hosts knocked out of World Cup

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