The Argentine great is likely to bow out from the international scene – and was second best to a ridiculous Kylian Mbappe in France’s victory
This felt like a symbolic day in the course of history.
June 30 2018 – the day the baton was passed from one footballing great to the next in line to the throne?
Leo Messi’s troubled international career is likely to finish on a low after Argentina were beaten 4-3 by France in a truly pulsating World Cup encounter.
Messi was, by his standards, fairly anonymous throughout and it speaks volumes that seven goals were scored and none of them came from the Argentine great.
Instead he was outshone by the other number 10 on the field and the man – or boy – who many feel will eventually follow in his footsteps as the greatest player on the planet.
Because Kylian Mbappe is still just 19.
He wasn’t even alive for France’s last World Cup triumph in 1998 – the only member of the current French squad that statistic applies to.
But Mbappe came of age in Kazan, scoring twice but offering far more than just goals in one of the most iconic World Cup matches for decades.
It was his searing pace that won the penalty for France’s first goal, sprinting more than 70 yards before being cynically brought down by Marcos Rojo.
Then, when France needed a hero to step up after Argentina flipped the game on its head, it was the youngest player on the pitch who grasped the bull by the horns.
His first goal was reminiscent of peak Thierry Henry with his feint and low finish, whilst his second was unerringly clinical after a flowing team move.
Messi, meanwhile, was marshalled relentlessly by the irrepressible N’Golo Kante.
In a contest that had so many different facets, it is Mbappe’s coming of age that will resonate most.
While one great bows out of the international game, one destined for greatness announced himself to it.