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5 shots from World Cup day 16: Twilight of the superstars
Superstars are sent packing, PSG can be pleased, Pele is nice to modest Mbappé and Mascherano says goodbye on day 16 of the 2018 World Cup.
- Goodbye Messi ... and Ronaldo
The Germans going home early is one thing but Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the way, too! And both upstaged on the same day. Someone is making this up. Youthful Kylian Mbappé eclipsed Messi by bagging a brace in France’s 4-3 win over Argentina and that old warhorse Edinson Cavani also scored twice in Uruguay’s 2-1 victory over Portugal. So superstars are gone. New kings will emerge.
- Sound investments
The well-tailored executives at Paris Saint-Germain must be patting each other on the back. Two goal heroes Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé are on their roster. All the sharp suits need now is for 222-million Neymar to unleash similar pyrotechnics when his Brazil side play Mexico in the last 16 in Samara on day 19. Then they can self-baste. But perhaps, not too much. How did this 450-million troika get roasted by Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League? Perhaps a question for next season.
- One upman
Kylian Mbappé bagged a brace to become the first teenager to score two goals in a World Cup since 1958. Naturally, the world is going mad, mad, mad about the boy. Moreso since the 19-year-old’s two goals helped France surge past Lionel Messi’s Argentina 4-3 and into the quarter-final. So who was the last lad to score twice? A 17-year-old Pele. Whatever became of him? "Legend," is the answer to that. Amid the post-match hysteria, Mbappé showed some dexterity. “I'm very happy to have scored the goals and it's flattering to be the second teenager after Pele … but let's put things in context: Pele is in another category. But it's good to be among these people." And just in case Mbappé didn’t want to keep his feet on the ground. Pele went on to Twitter to hail the feat. "Congratulations, @KMbappe, 2 goals in a World Cup so young puts you in great company." A company of one. Odd the old boy wonder didn’t mention his goals came in the final.
- Final countdown
So, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo - the best players of their generation - failed to inspire their national teams to World Cup triumph, unlike Pele or Argentina’s Diego Maradona. Oh well! Messi, at 31, and Ronaldo, at 33, have a few more seasons in them at club level but it’s unlikely they’ll be at the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022. The corpus Cristiano will be 37. "Now is not the time to talk about the future of players,” Ronaldo fumed after Portugal’s 2-1 defeat to Uruguay. Either he or Messi has claimed the world player of the year trophy since 2008. He and Messi have never scored a goal in the World Cup knockout rounds. Something to aim for, then.
- Going, going, gone
They took their time about it. But Argentina creaked to a halt. If their first Group D match, the 1-1 against Iceland on 16 June in Moscow, raised a few eyebrows, then the 3-0 loss to Croatia five days later in Nizhny Novgorod left many mouth agape. And the redemption of the 2-1 victory over Nigeria in St Petersburg was short-lived. The South Americans were blitzed by Kylian Mbappé in the last 16 in Kazan. "We had the misfortune of coming up against a player who had an incredible day and who made us pay for it," said the Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli. Many of Sampaoli’s critics have been highlighting the misfortune of his stewardship of the squad. Future intrigues won’t be of concern to one warhorse though. "It's time to say goodbye,” said 34-year-old Javier Mascherano, of this World Cup and his 15-year international career.