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Kylian Mbappe destroys Argentina to send Lionel Messi and company home

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Kylian Mbappe World Cup

It is one of the gifts of being the most talented teenage 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  Kylian 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.

If he is to win the World Cup in Qatar to end all arguments about the greatest of all time debate then Messi will have to do so at the age of 35 and while that is not beyond the realm of possibilities, his country will have to find him ten new team-mates in order to do so.

In the end, Messi stood for a while in his own half, while his team-mates kept a respectful distance, as unwilling to leave the pitch before him as a Soviet Union audience were to be the first to take their seat during a standing ovation for the general secretary. Eventually, Messi walked off, with barely a glance up at the Argentina fans who had dominated the stadium, a curt departure and a cold stare.

It had been a low-key performance from him, punctuated by two goals that briefly gave Argentina the illusion of being in this round of 16 ties. The first was their only attempt on goal in the first half, a beautiful ping from Angel Di Maria with his left foot that took the score to 1-1 and then a second after the break that glanced off Mercado’s left foot before he realised he had even put it there.

In his first press conference question, Jorge Sampaoli was asked whether he would be resigning and the Argentine coach seemed to say that he would think about it. He is one of those international managers for whom the pretence of authority is paper-thin and although he said all the things coaches of big football nations are supposed to say in these situations it was doubtful whether anyone believed him.

“I was very excited to be here, I had many expectations and we wanted Argentina to go as far as possible,” he said. “We had this very exciting project, and I wanted to move everybody with this idea. I always believed that Argentina could win. So, of course, I feel a certain frustration, but this will make me stronger as a coach, allow me to learn to grow.”

In the first half, his team had played a terrifyingly high line against such a fast France team although it had barely mattered when Kylian Mbappe set off from his own half on ten minutes at twice the pace of anyone on the other side. When Rojo finally reached him it was all he could do to thrust himself into the teenager and concede the sort of penalty that VAR barely had to check.

Antoine Griezmann converted it confidently and while Argentina had more of the possession it was France who looked the more dangerous on the counter-attack. N’Golo Kante was in charge of cutting off the supply line to Messi and it was working well, which only made it more of a surprise that France found themselves 2-1 down within three minutes of the second half starting.

A lesser side might have struggled up against Argentina, digging in for their lives and urged on by their magnificent support. The equaliser from Benjamin Pavard illustrated the quality of player at Didier Deschamps’ disposal, a right foot half volley, struck first time from 30 yards out with the 22-year-old falling over as he did it. It was an outrageous goal from a player who made a late push to make the squad, but it was about to be trumped by Mbappe.

His first came when the ball was loose in the area from Lucas Hernandez’s cross and Mbappe pounced, bursting left and then unleashing a shot past Franco Armani. His second was an ice-cold finish at the end of a move that went from Hugo Lloris to Samuel Umtiti, to Griezmann, to Blaise Matuidi, and on to Olivier Giroud before he picked out Mbappe’s run. A booking for Matuidi means he will miss the quarter-finals. At that point, with 22 minutes left, Argentina looked flat out but pushed to the end, when substitute Aguero headed in.

No teenager since Pele in 1958 has scored more than one goal in a World Cup match,  Kylian Mbappe wisely avoided comparisons afterwards. “Let’s put this in context,” he said, “Pele’s another category”.

Kylian Mbappe’s arresting talent will take him a long way and one day he may, like Messi, play in four World Cup finals. Although the one thing he will not be able to control in ten years’ time is whether the players around him are up to the task.

The Telegraph

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DIASPORA

Five people killed,189 arrested so far in Johannesburg violence

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Johannesburg Xenophobic Violence

Five people have been killed and 189 arrested in a spate of Johannesburg xenophobic violence that has rocked parts of the city since Sunday, police confirmed on Tuesday.

The five deaths have led to police deploying more police officers in areas identified as hot spots.

The latest killings were of two South Africans who were shot in Coronationville on Tuesday afternoon.

“Police have increased deployments to cover all the areas identified as hot spots of violence that have seen several shops being looted, burned and the property being looted,” said police spokesperson Col Lungelo Dlamini.

He said the situation had been stabilised in parts of the Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg Central, Jeppestown and Cleveland policing areas.

This was, however, not the case in Coronationville, as violent clashes continued and claimed the lives of two South Africans on Tuesday.

The clashes forced Gauteng premier David Makhura to leave a meeting between police minister Bheki Cele and those affected by the recent violence and rush to the area to call for calm.

Apart from these two murders, two killings were reported in Hillbrow and one near the Jeppe hostel.

Police had, however, made arrests in connection with the outbreaks of violence.

“A total of 189 arrests have been effected since Sunday,” said Dlamini.

Those arrests are facing a raft of charges, ranging from charges which include public violence, malicious damage to property, theft, and business break-ins.

Police said they were forced to fire rubber bullets to disperse a group of people who planned to loot businesses in Thokoza and Kempton Park in the early hours of Tuesday.

Dlamini said the spate of violent incidents led to criminals gangs taking advantage of the chaotic situation and breaking into businesses, not only those belonging to foreign nationals but also other businesses.

A process to identify leaders of the protests was underway.

“In the meantime, police are identifying the leaders of these violent groups and will be arrested them once full evidence against them has been gathered,” said Dlamini.

Gauteng police commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela thanked members of the public who provided information to assist the police in dealing with violent situations.

Mawela has also assured the public that no unlawful activities will be tolerated.

“All our members are on the ground to deal with criminality,” he said.TimesLive

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BUSINESS

African leaders boycott WEF Africa over xenophobic attacks in SA

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World Economic Forum on Africa

The presidents of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi have decided not to attend the World Economic Forum on Africa hosted by South Africa in the face of ongoing looting and burning of small businesses in that country, owned largely by African immigrants, local media reported on Wednesday.

The chairman of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat has condemned the attacks, which have seen scores of people arrested in Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.

Reports said Zambia had also cancelled a friendly football match with South Africa’s national men’s team Bafana Bafana scheduled for March.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari instructed his foreign affairs minister to summon South Africa’s high commissioner to Nigeria over the violence.

Some South Africans say they are retaliating against crime committed by foreigners and the sale of illicit goods by foreign shop owners, but political analysts say African immigrants have become scapegoats for rising anger over joblessness and general economic woes.

In a statement on Tuesday, the African Union Commission’s Faki called for “immediate steps to protect the lives of people and their property, ensure that all perpetrators are brought to account for their acts and that justice is done to those who suffered economic and other losses.”

“The chairperson reiterates the African Union’s Commission continued commitment to support the South African government in addressing the root causes that led to these despicable acts, in order to promote peace and stability, within the framework of the African Union’s longstanding principles of continental solidarity,” his spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said. African News Agency

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CRIME

FBI takes down Nigerian fraudsters in $46M case

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Nigerian fraudsters

The relationship between a Japanese woman and a U.S. Army captain stationed in Syria started online, through an international social network for digital pen pals. It grew into an internet romance over 10 months of daily emails.

It ended with the woman $200,000 poorer and on the verge of bankruptcy after borrowing money from her sister, ex-husband and friends to help Capt. Terry Garcia with his plan to smuggle diamonds out of Syria.

In reality, there were no diamonds and there was no Garcia — they were part of an elaborate scam hatched by an international ring of cyber thieves operating mainly out of Los Angeles and Nigeria.

Federal authorities cited the case of the Japanese woman, known only as “F.K.” in court papers, on Thursday when they announced an indictment charging 80 people with stealing at least $46 million through various schemes that targeted businesses, the elderly and anyone susceptible to a romance scam. Most of the defendants are Nigerian fraudsters.

“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna told a news conference. “We are taking a major step to disrupt these criminal networks.”

The investigation began in 2016 with a single bank account and one victim, said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office. It grew to encompass victims who were targeted in the U.S. and around the world, some of whom like the Japanese woman lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“F.K. was and is extremely depressed and angry about these losses,” the federal complaint states. “She began crying when discussing the way that these losses have affected her.”

Her relationship began innocently in March 2016 with an email but soon “Garcia” made “romantic overtures,” according to federal authorities. He told her they couldn’t talk by phone because he wasn’t allowed to use one in Syria.

So a stream of emails went back and worth, with her using Google to translate his English into her Japanese. A month into the relationship, Garcia told her he’d found a bag of diamonds in Syria and he began introducing her to his associates, starting with a Red Cross representative who told her Garcia had been injured but had given him the box.

F.K. ultimately made 35 to 40 payments, receiving as many as 10 to 15 emails a day directing her to send money to accounts in the U.S., Turkey and the United Kingdom through the captain’s many purported associates.

The Nigerian fraudsters even threatened her with arrest if she did not continue to pay and at one point she travelled to Los Angeles because she was told a Russian bank manager had embezzled more than $33,000 of her funds.

Authorities arrested 14 defendants Thursday, mostly in the Los Angeles area. FBI agents could be seen processing suspects in a downtown Los Angeles parking lot before they were arraigned in federal court. It was not immediately known if they had attorneys who could speak on their behalf.

Two suspects were previously in custody and a few others were arrested earlier this week. Hanna said he hoped to be able to work with foreign governments to extradite the remaining Nigerian fraudsters.

They all face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft, and some are charged with additional offences for alleged fraud and money laundering.AOL

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