The goals, the drama, a star being born as another fades away, and the crowd, all make for an epic FIFA World Cup classic between France and Argentina - which you can watch on Thursday afternoon on SBS.
WATCH our final of 10 FIFA World World Cup classic matches - France v Argentina 2018- Thursday June 25 at 2:30pm (AEST) on SBS and streamed via The World Game website / app and SBS On Demand.
1. This might be the best World Cup match ever
What is the best World Cup game ever? It’s a subjective question and we all have our favourite.
But if you were to come up with a list of what a great game needs you would say: lots of goals, great goals, brilliant players doing great things, drama, atmosphere, lead changes and the feeling that the whole world is watching.
France 4 - Argentina 3 from the 2018 World Cup certainly has all of that.
This was the first 4-3 match that didn’t require extra time.
From the sixth minute, when Kylian Mbappe bursts at the Argentinian defence - skipping past two players with ease only to be clattered by Javier Mascherano just outside the box - we knew we had something exciting on our hands.
By the final whistle, with Argentina almost making it 4-4 with the last kick, we knew we had witnessed something historic.
Some great World Cup matches are too one-sided (Brazil 1 - Germany 7 from 2014), some are too cagey and take a while to heat up (Germany 0 - Italy 2 from 2006), even the incredible Italy 4 - Germany 3 in 1970, only saw one goal in the first 89 minutes.
This match was drama, skill, tension, brilliance, emotion and everything we love about football encapsulated into 90 minutes.
2. Kylian Mbappe
This is the match that saw Mbappe transform from a hot prospect into a world-class player in the eyes of the football public.
We knew he was talented, but this showed he could mix it with anyone in the world.
Speed is such a thrilling thing in football, and Mbappe has it at near Olympic levels.
Mbappe’s mission for this match was clearly to terrorise the Argentinian defence with his explosive runs.
In the sixth minute, he bolts past two only to be brought down on the edge of the area.
Four minutes later, he picks the ball up 70 meters from his own goal, within six seconds he has left three opponents for dead with Marcos Rojo accepting his only option was to try and foul him before he got to the box.
Rojo failed to even do that, bringing him down inside the area.
It’s the defining moment of this chaotic match.
For all that happens, the central problem is that Argentina just cannot deal with someone so rapid and so balanced.
Eight minutes after Griezmann converts the penalty that Mbappe won, the then 19-year-old forces Tagliafico to pick up a yellow card.
It was 18 minutes in and Mbappe’s run had already led to a free-kick rattling the crossbar, a converted penalty and two yellow cards for Argentina.
With the game locked at 2-2, Mbappe proved to again be the circuit breaker.
His reactions on France’s third goal show that his speed is not just limited to longer distances.
Blaise Matuidi’s shot ricocheted off Otamendi and flew straight into Mbappe’s feet.
The speed of thought to control the ball and instantly take it past a hopeless Rojo showed that Mbappe could kill you over 70 meters or just two.
If the first goal showcased his speed into open space by winning the penalty, and the second showed his speed of thought in almost no space, than the third and France’s fourth showed his incredible composure.
Mbappe - one of the youngest players at the tournament - holds his run to stay onside, he controls his rapid speed to make sure he can take the shot first time as he side foots it past Armani in goals.
4-2. A star is born.
3. Angel Di Maria’s goal
Di Maria is an underrated player. He has won over 20 trophies and been a key figure in league title victories for Benfica, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.
He was man of the match in the 2014 UEFA Champions League final. The clubs he has played for have paid well over $150 million for his services.
Yet you will very rarely hear people bring him up in discussions about world-class players or see his highlights trending on YouTube or Twitter.
Maybe it’s the fact that at Real Madrid he was outshone by players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
Possiblybecause it didn’t work out for him at United - but who has it worked out for there in the post-Alex Ferguson era?
At PSG, he has taken a side-kick role to the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and later Neymar.
With Argentina, he has forever been in the shadow of Lionel Messi.
But in this moment, that shadow helped him score one of his greatest ever goals.
France’s entire game plan was so focused on limiting Messi that they under-rated the impact of Di Maria.
In the 41st minute, Paul Pogba came too wide to try and defend a throw-in, Benjamin Pavard pushed too high to press Ever Banega as a result and N’Golo Kante tried to fill the space that they had left.
Meanwhile, Blaise Matuidi stayed wide where Messi was. This was one of the few times that France were ill-disciplined in defence and left a huge hole on the edge of the box.
Di Maria took full advantage.
A wonderful, technically perfect, strike with his left foot gave Hugo Lloris no chance. It saw the crowd explode with noise, inspired by hope.
It was a goal of the tournament contender, until 11 minutes into the second half when it ceased to be even the best goal of the match.
4. Benjamin Pavard’s goal
In 2017, Pavard was playing in the German second division. At the time, very few people outside of hardcore German and French football fans knew his name.
In 2018, with the world watching, everyone learnt his name.
Matuidi played an excellent first-time through ball into the path of French left-back Theo Hernandez.
This goal summed up one key tactical trend of football in 2018 with one full-back crossing to another full-back.
Hernandez’s cross bounced into Pavard’s path and the then 22-year-old hit one of the best all-time World Cup goals.
A ‘perfect’ strike under-sells how good this goal was.
It felt like every single time Pavard had ever come into contact with a football led to this moment.
The power, bend and control of this shot is something only very few people on earth can do.
To do it with your country 2-1 down in a World Cup elimination match puts you in the history books.
‘The Pavard goal’ now requires no further explanation.
5. Messi and the absurdity of greatness
Most people consider this to be a poor game from Messi. It’s widely considered that he underperformed.
Messi produced two assists this game. Luka Modric, who won the player of the tournament, played three extra matches than Messi and only had one for the whole tournament.
This is not to say that Modric didn’t have a great tournament, he did and also plays a slightly deeper role than Messi.
But it is to point out the fact that we have become so accustomed to Messi’s ridiculously consistent brilliance that we expect him to score in every match.
His greatness has become absurd that we judge him on a level like no one else.
With 699 goals in less than 900 matches, you can understand those expectations.
This is definitely not Messi’s best game. But the entire match revolves around him.
France’s plan is to keep the ball away from him. They give space to Argentina when it’s on the other side, away from Messi.
As soon as it goes near him they swarm him from all angles, cutting off the pass to him and any exits he might have.
Argentina’s plan is to get the ball to him. If they can’t, they very reluctantly try another route to goal, it rarely works.
Everyone in this match is anxious about Messi. The French forwards and wingers drop back to deal with him. Griezmann, Giroud, Matudi and Mbappe all chase him at different times.
Kante marks him at certain points, Pogba provides cover if he escapes.
Varane and Umtiti charge out if he looks like he might skip past the defensive midfield block.
But Messi’s teammates are as anxious about getting the ball to him, almost seemingly like they can’t even comprehend scoring without his involvement.
This game is a disappointment for Messi.
But as disciplined as France are he still produces two assists. The pass for Aguero’s goal to make it 4-3 is particularly special.
Messi is the most talented player in the history of world football. And yet, he has never scored in a World Cup knockout match. For what it’s worth, neither has his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Maybe that’s another reason why we love football.
You can go into a match knowing who the best players are but you’ll never know who the heroes of the day will be.
6. The sound of the crowd
Right now matches across the world are being played behind closed doors without fans. In their place, broadcasters are pumping up fake crowd noise.
At times it sounds like a normal match, but watching this game you know that they’ll never be able to truly capture the emotion of the crowd.
Argentinian fans bring the best atmospheres to World Cups. They sing louder, they jump with more fury, they swing their arms relentlessly, they make stadiums pulse to their beat.
It doesn’t matter where in the stadium they are, they will stand, jump and sing throughout.
They make every match feel like a home game. It’s incredible and something Australians could learn from.
They are the 12th man for Argentina in this match. Unfortunately, even if they literally had an extra player, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli would have found a way to misuse it.
In this match, you feel every emotion going through those fans.
The joy of Di Maria’s equaliser, the ecstasy and wonder when Mercado puts them 2-1 up, the defiance when they continue to chant after going down 4-2.
But it’s the anxiety that you can feel, that cannot be replicated by fake noise, every time Mbappe breaks forward. Every time it looks like France might score.
And the French fans do their part also, seizing on this anxiety and making themselves heard.
It is a vital component to football and one that cannot be truly replicated.
7. The tactical battle
This France team that won the World Cup was not a great team. They were a well-organised team of great players who were united as a group. And that’s all it takes sometimes.
France had the more talented XI of the two sides but chose to sit deep, restricting Messi and allowing Mbappe to break into vast amounts of space.
Argentina responded to going 1-0 down by holding on to more possession and building even slower, tiring the French attackers who would drop very deep to help their team.
Slowly they worked themselves back into the game.
But France responded going down 2-1 to pushing their full-backs higher - hence the Pavard goal set up by Hernandez.
Matuidi not only did a great job helping restrict Messi but he was involved in the build up to France’s second, third and fourth goal.
The fourth goal especially shows why Deschamps persisted with a front three of Matuidi, Griezmann and Mbappe behind Giroud as all four combined to set up Mbappe.
Aguero is introduced in the 65th minute with the score at 3-2.
He combined with Messi to score Argentina’s third and the team’s best moments late in the game involved their partnership.
You just wonder why he did not start the game.
The ebbs and flows of the game show both teams adjusting tactically and it like everything else about this match is fascinating to watch.