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(“It’s goodbye from me and it’s goodbye from him”)

It seemed as though the World Cup exploded into life. The tournament, which is destined to be remembered as “the-dodgy-Russian-one-before-the dodgy-Qatar-one”, had thrown up some decent games during the group stage but the real excitement could only really be felt once the knock-out stage arrived.

The first two matches had the potential to be enthralling or boring because they featured South American teams against European teams. Argentina versus France, given their showings in the previous stage of the competition, was a meeting we hoped would provide entertainment rather than expected it to.

In the end it was a cracking game which had virtually everything.
France took the lead when Kylian M’Bappe went on a run from the halfway line which was ended when Marcos Rojo clumsily brought him down in the penalty area and Antoine Griezmann scored the resulting spot kick.

Shortly before half-time, and against the run of play, Angel Di Maria equalised with an excellent shot from all of thirty yards. It was to be the only decent contribution he made during the whole game.

Not long after the interval Argentina went ahead when a tame shot from Messi was deflected into the French net by Gabriel Mercado and, at this stage, the boys in light blue were looking good.

They only looked good for around ten minutes though as Benjamin Pavard scored another contender for “goal-of-the-tournament” in very similar fashion to that of Nacho Fernandez in Spain’s match against Portugal.

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The new kid on the World Cup block

Then, halfway through the second half, Kylian M’Bappe took over. He scored two goals in four minutes and that was effectively that. In doing so he became the first teenager since Pele in 1958 to score two goals in a World Cup game, (although Pele did it in the final)!

Sergio Agüero came on for Argentina and scored a goal with only seconds left and it did leave a lot of fans wondering why he had been left out of the team in the first place. He finished the competition as Argentina’s top goalscorer after netting twice, yet he only started one game.

So it finished 4-3 to the French.

Portugal v Uruguay…..

In the second game we had little expectation that the excitement from the first could be repeated. In fact, in a lot of respects, it was even better. It was a closer contest even though the two games finished with only one goal between the sides.

Uruguay took the lead through an Edinson Cavani header in the firat half and a combination of chasing back by the front two and dogged defending saw them hold onto it until half-time.

Portugal equalised through Pepé in the second half when he was allowed a free header in the middle of the Uruguayan penalty area. This was quite a lapse in concentration for a team who hadn’t conceded a goal all tournament.

However, they were soon back in front when Cavani again was left in space to side-foot the ball home from twenty yards with what was another excellent finish to make it 2-1.

This time there were no lapses in concentration and the South Americans held on to progress to the quarter final where they will meet France. It should be another exciting game, or is that tempting fate too much?

World Cup - Round of 16 - Uruguay vs Portugal

Edinson Cavani – Scored both of Uruguay’s goals when beating Portugal

And finally…..

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi exited the World Cup on the same day. The two best players in the world were decidedly underwhelming in their final games and it now remains to be seen whether or not they will retire from international football, in Messi’s case for the second time.

Ronaldo at least threatened, even if only temporarily, to win the Golden Boot while he was there, scoring four goals in his first two games. Lionel Messi never looked anything like the player we all know him to be and doesn’t adapt as well to international football as his Portuguese counterpart.

Forget this nonsense about the Argentina team not being very good. The Portugal team isn’t very good either but Ronaldo succeeds in bringing it up a level, something Messi fails to do with Argentina.

Ronaldo is capable of taking a game by the scruff of the neck and winning it almost single-handedly, Messi isn’t. The diminutive Argentinian needs to be surrounded by good players who are playing well before he can conduct the orchestra.

Fortunately, for the watching world, even without these two there are still a few decent players left in this World Cup.

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