France showed their strength of character as they came from 2-1 down to beat Argentina 4-3 in a thrilling World Cup round-of-16 tie on Saturday, coach Didier Deschamps said.
Kylian Mbappe scored twice as France raced into a 4-2 lead before Sergio Aguero pulled a late goal back for Argentina, and Deschamps told reporters their battling qualities had seen them through.
“We were up against a highly experienced Argentina team but we showed we were there and the team showed they had character,” he told a news conference.
“When we were 2-1 down it was not easy, but we kept fighting. The mentality in this group is excellent.”
After opening the scoring with an Antoine Griezmann penalty, France wasted chances and were punished by goals from Angel Di Maria and Gabriel Mercado — but they roared back to level with an outstanding strike from defender Benjamin Pavard.
“I’m not afraid, I’m not fearing anything,” Deschamps said. “When this second [Argentina] goal was scored, it was a blow.
“We could have equalised quicker with Antoine [Griezmann]. As long as you have time, even if you have a highly experienced team in front of you, I know that the French team are ready to face it.
“Even if we had less possession of the ball, on some counter-attacks we could have scored more goals, I think.”
Deschamps acknowledged that it was an emotional match.
“It was emotional,” said Deschamps to TF1. “I am very happy for the players and to have qualified. I feel happy.
“As I told the players before the match, they have been working towards this for months — they were ready for a game like that. They needed to answer, and the response was a strong one.
“The truth of this match was that it was a tough one — we made some mistakes, but the Argentinians suffered plenty as well.”
Paul Pogba, who bossed the midfield with N’Golo Kante, added: “Mentally, physically, technically, we showed we were a great France team today.
“We showed our qualities and we demonstrated that we could be there against the big teams. But we’re not world champions. We’ll be happy until tomorrow, and then, back to work.”