First Lionel Messi was upstaged by Kylian Mbappe, now Cristiano Ronaldo must wrestle with the crushing disappointment of seeing his World Cup dream shattered after being comprehensively outstripped by another Paris St-Germain striker.
Two sumptuous goals from Edinson Cavani set up a tantalising quarter-final meeting with France on Friday on a day when hope of a Messi-Ronaldo showdown in Nizhny Novgorod was vanquished.
Yet this was not quite the fairytale for Cavani that France’s thrilling 4-3 victory over Argentina had proved for his club team-mate, Mbappe, who also scored twice, earlier in the day.
There was only 10 minutes between Cavani scoring Uruguay’s decisive second, after the Portugal defender Pepe had cancelled out his opening goal, and the striker pulling up with a hamstring injury and limping off with a crestfallen look on his face.
Oscar Tabarez, the Uruguay coach, said Cavani would be assessed, but with only six days until they face France, time is against him. “He felt pain,” Tabarez said. “We don’t have a lot of time for recovery but after a rest day we will have a diagnosis. Now we are worried but right now we don’t know how grave this injury is.”
Kylian Mbappe destroys Argentina to send Lionel Messi and co home in World Cup thriller
It is one of the gifts of being the most talented teenager footballer in the world that Kylian Mbappe makes fast defenders look slow and slow defenders look ridiculous, although in the end this was about bigger things than just a first half demolition of poor old Marcos Rojo.
The 19-year-old’s savage turn of speed that won France the penalty for their first goal saw him flash before our eyes in real time while simultaneously the careers of half a dozen Argentinian defenders and midfielders were flashing before theirs. One of those moments that every old pro recognises when the legs are getting slower, the youngsters are getting quicker and the best they can hope for is to kick him before he reaches the area.
At the other end of the pitch, the unreadable Lionel Messi weighed up what the chances were of surviving another opponent like this, and then another, and then another, with a team of willing triers from Argentinian’s domestic league and beyond. If his old friend Javier Mascherano, who retired from the international game at the end, was still the best bet for holding midfield, then Messi will know himself that he barely has to ask the question.
It would be nonsense to say the baton was handed from Messi to Mbappe on this hot afternoon in Tatarstan because no-one can lay claim to what Argentina’s No 10 has done until they have dominated the opposition for at least a decade. But you could imagine a reluctant acceptance in Messi as he surveyed the gallant attempts of Enzo Perez, Nicolas Tagliafico, Maximiliano Meza et al to compete with this talented generation of young Frenchmen and it was not hard to guess his thoughts.
Messi has done his best for a very poor Argentina squad, and a coach Jorge Sampaoli whose attitude towards his surfeit of attacking talent has been to play fewer and fewer of them as the tournament has progressed. Perhaps Messi’s last act as an Argentina international was to stroke the cross on to the head of Sergio Aguero at the back post for an Argentina goal that narrowed the margin to closer than it should have been.
Courtesy: The Telegraph