With Lionel Messi out of the tournament, the World Cup has a new star.
Kylian Mbappe, only 19 and one of the youngest players at the tournament, scored two goals in a five-minute span of the second half to lead France over Argentina 4-3 Saturday and into the World Cup quarterfinals.
Messi, at 31 and playing in his fourth and possibly final World Cup, set up a pair of goals but again failed to score in a knockout match at the biggest event in soccer.
Mbappe was a constant threat to Argentina’s creaking defence with his speed and skill and was at the heart of France’s often-breathtaking display, particularly in the middle of the second half.
He became the second teenager to score multiple goals in a knockout match at the World Cup. Pele was the other, doing it twice at 17 at the 1958 World Cup.
“It is flattering to be the second one after Pele but let’s put things in context. Pele is another category,” Mbappe said. “But it’s good to be among the players to score in knockout matches.”
With the score 2-2, Mbappe got his first goal with a cool finish from a tight angle in the 64th minute, his low shot going under Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani. Four minutes later, he slotted past Armani again after he was put through on goal by a deft pass from Oliver Giroud.
Mbappe also helped France to its first goal. Following a sustained period of early pressure, he won a penalty after a 40-meter burst of speed that ended with him being brought down by Marcos Rojo. Antoine Griezmann then scored from the spot in the 13th minute, sending Armani the wrong way.
“Of course, as I’ve already and always said, in the World Cup you have all the top level players so it is an opportunity to show what you can do and what your abilities are,” Mbappe said. “There is no better place than a World Cup.”
France reached the quarterfinals at consecutive World Cups for the first time.
Mbappe was born a few months after France won the 1998 World Cup at home, its only title at the tournament.
“People remember more the World Cup victory than the year I was born. It is normal it was the time we were World Cup winners, so that is obviously what they remember,” Mbappe said.
France will next face either Portugal or Uruguay in the quarterfinals on Friday in Nizhny Novgorod. Blaise Matuidi will miss the match after receiving a second yellow card of the tournament.
Argentina briefly took the lead in the 48th minute at Kazan Arena, but France defender Benjamin Pavard equalized nine minutes later with a superb strike from outside the area.
Argentina got its goals from Angel Di Maria, Gabriel Mercado and late substitute Sergio Aguero. Messi set up the latter two, first sending a shot on goal that Mercado deflected into the net in the 48th.
With time winding down, the 31-year-old Messi gave Argentina a bit of hope with a cross to the left that Aguero headed into goal in stoppage time.
Di Maria’s goal was one of the best of the tournament. Following a throw-in, he hit a hard shot from 30 yards that curled into the top right corner, beyond the dive of France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.