Lionel Messi’s last chance to add a major international title to a glittering array of personal achievements and trophies at club level almost certainly disappeared with Argentina’s elimination from the World Cup Saturday.
It was a fourth World Cup for Messi, who secured a place in tournament trivia with a superb goal against Nigeria in the group phase that made him the first player to score as a teenager, in his 20s and 30s at the global showpiece event.
French teenager Kylian Mbappe scored two goals in four minutes to send a youthful France charging into the World Cup quarter-finals and Messi home with a thrilling 4-3 win over Argentina at the Kazan Arena.
The 19-year-old forward's electric pace caused Argentina problems all afternoon, and his twin strikes helped France overturn a 2-1 deficit to set up a meeting with Uruguay or Portugal.
"It's very rewarding because of what was at stake in this particular match," French coach Didier Deschamps said of the performance of his team.
"On the other side there were a lot of highly experienced players that we handled pretty well ... I've learnt a lot (and) the team has showed what it could do."
Messi provided assists for two goals but the 31-year-old was otherwise subdued in the "false nine" role and his fourth, and possibly final, crack at winning the World Cup was destined to end in disappointment.
While Mbappe was the most influential player on the pitch, Argentina's Angel Di Maria and France full-back Benjamin Pavard fought out a private contest for the best goal of the match with two magnificent long-range strikes.
Di Maria's goal canceled out Antoine Griezmann's early penalty to equalize for Argentina just before the break while Pavard's in the 57th minute leveled the scores at 2-2 after Argentina had edged ahead through Gabriel Mercado.
Mbappe, the first teenager since Brazilian great Pele in the 1958 final to score two goals in one World Cup match, then took over to send Argentina slumping out of the finals before the quarter-finals for the first time since 2002.
"It's flattering to be the second one after Pele, but we must keep it in context," Mbappe said.
"In a World Cup you have all the top level players, it's an opportunity to show what your abilities are, there is no better place than a World Cup."
Twice champions Argentina got a consolation through substitute striker Sergio Aguero in added time but they were simply unable to cope with Mbappe's pace from his first surge towards the box after nine minutes.
Despite winning 128 caps, representing his country has looked a torturous ordeal increasingly in contrast to the joy Messi exudes in Barcelona colors.
Even debate over his status as Argentina’s best may be swayed by Diego Maradona’s role in almost single-handedly winning the 1986 World Cup for his country in Mexico.