Lionel Messi and Argentina had new life in the World Cup, but it's turned into sudden death after their round-of-16 matchup against France.
Kylian Mbappe's double and Benjamin Pavard's wonderstrike in the span of 12 minutes seized control for France, which beat Argentina 4-3 in a thriller in Kazan. Argentina had earned a clean slate after a horrendous group stage with Marcos Rojo's improbably late volley vs. Nigeria sealing a place in the knockout stage. And it appeared its stay would be a short one after France dominated early and Antoine Griezmann connected for a 13th-minute penalty kick.
But Angel Di Maria's sensational strike and Gabriel Mercado's redirect of a Messi shot gave Argentina a brief lead in the second half, before Les Bleus took over.
Argentina presented a wrinkle from the start, opening with Messi in a false nine role, and leaving all of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala on the bench.
Argentina looked like it might've had something on in the fifth minute, when a beautiful long diagonal ball picked out Di Maria streaking down the left-hand side. He fired in a cross in the general direction of nobody, though, instead of showing patience and waiting for a teammate to arrive in the attack, thus ending the threat.
France's first chance of the match came on a set piece, and Les Bleus were inches away from seizing the lead. After Mbappe earned a free kick 20 yards from goal at a straightaway angle, Griezmann fired his chance off the crossbar, letting Argentina off and keeping it 0-0 early.
Minutes later, Mbappe was at it again, earning a penalty for France. After a giveaway in the attacking third, Mbappe embarked on a one-man counterattack, blazing down the center of the field. Rojo couldn't handle his pace, and was forced into a foul just inside the box. Griezmann stepped to the spot and delivered, making it 1-0 in the 13th minute.
Mbappe's pace created more problems five minutes later. Off a quickly taken free kick, Paul Pogba played the PSG star in behind the Argentina defense, which brought him down inches outside of the box. After Rojo's earlier yellow card, Nicolas Tagliafico earned one of his own in conceding the free kick that nearly became a second penalty. Pogba fired his chance over the bar, though, keeping it 1-0.
France continued to torment Argentina's back line, with Griezmann again doing the honors. This time it came on a run down the right, as he torched Rojo as he approached the near post, before firing in a dangerous cross that Franco Armani managed to get down and stop before it found its desired target.
France had dominated the half, but it conceded an equalizer just as halftime approached on a horrible defensive lapse. Off a simple throw-in, Argentina worked the ball to the center of the field for Di Maria, who had ample space to fire away from nearly 30 yards. He laced a rocket by a diving Hugo Lloris, bringing Argentina level at 1-1.
Argentina took a stunning lead in the 48th minute. Di Maria earned a free kick on the left side, and after it was dealt with, the ball fell to Messi just inside the box on the other end. He took a speculative left-footed shot, and Mercado was in the right spot to redirect it out in front, while onside, to give Argentina a 2-1 edge.
Argentina barely survived a disaster in the back, when Federico Fazio, on as a halftime substitute for Rojo, attempted a backpass from close range to Armani, who had come off his line. The ball trickled toward the goal with France in pursuit, but Armani was able to eventually claim it before catastrophe struck in the 55th minute.
France did find its equalizer a couple of minutes later, but it came in sensational fashion. Much like Spanish fullback Nacho did against Portugal, Pavard had a ball fall to him 20 yards out, and he lashed a perfect volley into the far netting for the first international goal of his career, which made it 2-2.
France took the lead soon after. With Argentina unable to clear from its own box, the ball fell to Mbappe on the left side, some eight yards out. With one move, Mbappe created space and beat Armani to put Les Bleus ahead 3-2 in the 64th minute.
Mbappe extended the lead four minutes later. France carved up Argentina in the midfield, and Olivier Giroud sprung Mbappe into the box on the right-hand side. His precise finish beat Armani, making it 4-2 to France and putting Argentina in a deep hole.
Messi, who was largely neutralized, nearly pulled Argentina back within 4-3. In the 84th minute, he sprung free in the center and bounced into space inside the box, but his off-balance shot wasn't hit with much power or precision, and Lloris made the easy stop.
Argentina did pull that one back in stoppage time. Sergio Aguero scored off a Messi assist in the 93rd minute, making it 4-3 and giving Argentina a brief lifeline as time ticked down, but a chance at the death was redirected over the bar, and France held on for the win.
France will go on to play either Uruguay or Portugal in the quarterfinals.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeeper: Alphonse Areola (PSG), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Adil Rami (Marseille), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Steven N'Zonzi (Sevilla), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)
Manager: Didier Deschamps
Goalkeepers: Franco Armani (River Plate), Willy Caballero (Chelsea), Nahuel Guzman (Tigres)
Defenders: Marcos Acuña (Sporting Lisbon), Cristian Ansaldi (Torino), Federico Fazio (Roma), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax)
Midfielders: Ever Banega (Sevilla), Lucas Biglia (AC Milan), Angel Di Maria (PSG), Giovani Lo Celso (PSG), Enzo Perez (River Plate), Javier Mascherano (Hebei China Fortune), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente), Cristian Pavon (Boca Juniors), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica)
Forwards: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus)
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli