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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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Highlanders’ Apology for Fan Misconduct in Abandoned Dynamos Fixture

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Highlanders Football Club has issued a sincere apology to the Zimbabwean football community following the crowd skirmishes that occurred during the high-profile premiership fixture against their archrivals Dynamos. The incident happened just 33 minutes into the game at Barbourfields Stadium, where the Bulawayo club was trailing by two goals. Fans stormed the pitch, protesting against the referring decisions that were perceived to be unfavourable to their team.

The police were overwhelmed by the advancing football hooligans, forcing them to retreat. Some fans were injured during the skirmishes, and vehicles were damaged as the police fought running battles with fans outside the stadium.

In a statement released on Monday, the Highlanders Football Club condemned the unsporting behaviour of the fans who caused the abandonment of the match. The club executive stated that they would be heavily fined for the mayhem, and the points would be awarded to Dynamos on a 3-0 scoreline as per the norm with abandoned matches.

The statement read, “Highlanders Football Club is deeply saddened by the crowd trouble that led to the abandonment of our league match against Dynamos FC at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday. The club condemns the unsporting behaviour that negatively profiles Zimbabwean football as a brand. It is sad to witness such ugly scenes at a family sports event, especially at a time when the club, together with other stakeholders, is working tirelessly to bring fans back into the stadiums and convincing the corporate world that sport, in general, and football, in particular, is worth their support.”

Highlanders apologised to all its stakeholders, especially sponsors, partners, and innocent football-loving fans who were affected by the acts of a few selfish individuals who care less about the growth of their clubs and football in general. They also prayed for those who were injured and wished them a speedy recovery. The club also urged stakeholders to work together to find a lasting solution to hooliganism in football stadiums.

This is not the first time in two seasons that a match involving the two most followed clubs has been abandoned due to crowd trouble. Another fixture was abandoned in May last year when both sets of fans invaded the pitch. Highlanders celebrated an unorthodox celebration for a 93rd-minute finish by Washington Navaya that broke the deadlock, while Dynamos fans were protesting a referring decision over an incident leading to the goal.

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Zimbabwean youngster Jimiel Chikukwa has joined English National League side FC Halifax Town

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Zimbabwean youngster Jimiel Chikukwa has joined English National League side FC Halifax Town following his release by Championship side Watford.

The 20-year-old forward was unveiled by Halifax Town last week. ”We are pleased to announce that FC Halifax Town has signed Jimiel Chikukwa, who was recently released from Championship team Watford”. Chikukwa started his career in the Leeds United academy when he was only 13 years old. However, he decided to join Watford’s academy in the summer of 2021 when his contract with Leeds expired.

During his time with Watford, Chikukwa was loaned to Maidstone United in the National League South for the second half of the 2021/22 season. Although the Stones won the National League South, Chikukwa only made one league appearance before returning to Watford at the end of the season.

Town boss Chris Millington is optimistic about the future of new signing Jimiel Chikukwa.

Millington expressed, “He is a young and thrilling player who needs to demonstrate his abilities in senior games. However, he has shown tremendous potential, and we believe he will be an exceptional player for our team in the future.” Millington also mentioned that Chikukwa is versatile and can play in various positions, including anywhere in the front three and as an attacking wing-back.

We think he could pose a danger when playing as a number nine, but he could also be a threat when positioned on either wing. In our current formation, he might even excel as an attacking wing-back, similar to Angelo Cappello.

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Reims secures first win with Munetsi scoring his first goal

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Zimbabwe international Marshall Munetsi has expressed his delight after scoring his first goal of the season to inspire Stade de Reims to their first win of the season following a 2-0 victory against Clermont Foot in the second round of the French Ligue 1 on Sunday.

The 27-year-old midfielder was instrumental in ensuring Reims got its first win of the season after breaking the deadlock with a header in the 17th minute.

Denmark international Mohamed Daramy, a new signing from Ajax, added a second goal by converting a low cross from Junya Ito in the 84th.

Munetsi, who is flourishing in a more advanced role at Reims, had several opportunities to double his tally.

Probably his best chance of securing a brace came in the 76th minute when the Clermont goalkeeper Mory Diaw produced a double save to deny the Zimbabwe international what looked like a certain goal.

In the end, it was a successful day for Munetsi as he continued his solid start to the season by scoring a crucial goal to follow up on his contribution on the opening day of the season when he registered an assist during the 2-1 loss against Marseille in the first round of the season.

Afterwards, Munetsi took to social media to praise his teammates for putting on a solid display to register their first win of the campaign in their second match.

Great team performance @StadeDeReims to get our first win of the season at home. We keep going,” Munetsi said.

The former Orlando Pirates player is expected to play an important role for the Zimbabwe Warriors when they return to international football later this year in the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

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