‘Super Saturday’ certainly lived up to its billing and began the World Cup’s knockout phase with a bang.
Ten goals were scored – the most goals on a day of knockout football at the tournament since 17th June 1970, when two semi-finals produced a total of 11 goals.
French striker Kylian Mbappe, 19, stole the show with a devastating performance against Argentina, becoming the first teenager to score two in a World Cup match since Pele v Sweden in the 1958 final.
Despite sharing the last 10 Ballon d’Or’s between them, both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were eliminated from the World Cup on the same day.
The duo, widely considered to be among the best players of all time, have scored 1286 goals for their clubs and countries. But none in the knockout stages of World Cups, which is a remarkable statistic.
Watching the France v Argentina game, I was impressed with Les Bleus’ midfield trio of Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi.
The latter is suspended for the quarter-final clash against Uruguay and it will be interesting to see how France cope with the enforced change.
However, the match was all about Mbappe and it was almost surreal seeing Lionel Messi as only the second-best No.10 on the pitch.
Pundits have since described the result as a changing of the guard from old to young and we may have seen the future GOAT stand up and announce himself to the world.
In the last eight, it will be interesting to see France’s firepower up against the Uruguayan defence, which is superbly marshalled by the outstanding Atletico Madrid duo of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez.
Pepe’s goal for Portugal ended Uruguay’s run of 597 minutes without conceding a single goal, with the previous being conceded back in November 2017 vs Austria.
Don’t think of the two-time world champions as just a defensive team though.
Since 1966, only Grzegorz Lato and Andrzej Szarmach (5 for Poland) and Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose (5 for Germany) have combined for more World Cup goals than Uruguay’s strike duo of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez (4 for Uruguay).
Yesterday’s action will certainly be a hard act to follow for the rest of the knockout phase.
Will we see another great day today, or will ‘Super Saturday’ turn into ‘Sterile Sunday?’
I hope not.