Saturday’s Round of 16 match between France and Argentina was a seven-goal thriller, but one particular moment of brilliance managed to stand out above the rest. When French left back Lucas Hernández fizzed a cross through the box in the 57th minute, it eluded all of France’s attacking players. The ball landed instead at the feet of Benjamin Pavard, and the 22-year-old right back produced the goal of the game, if not the entire World Cup.
Hang it in the dang Louvre.
Argentina had been leading 2–1 at the time, and Pavard’s volley initiated the comeback that finished 4–3 in favor of France. It was the defender’s first ever goal for France, and it was so spectacular that he shouldn’t have to worry about scoring again. That was enough. In fact, no one could’ve blamed him if he ran straight out of Kazan Arena and leapt into the Volga river, leaving his team to play with 10 men as he drifted towards the Black Sea. A life’s work had been completed.
There have been harder-hit goals this World Cup, as well as strikes with more bend and swerve, but none can match Pavard’s for pure technique and conviction.
He knew exactly what he was doing, which is incredible considering … what the hell was he doing? I think he may have reinvented flight. Pavard didn’t just strike the ball, he manipulated the flow of air around it. He applied enough downward spin to create lift and turned a sphere into an aileron. Thanks to the right back’s creativity, people will be boarding giant soccer balls at Charles de Gaulle in 2022 to travel to the next World Cup (unless they rename it Pavard International Airport before then).
Congratulations, Monsieur Pavard, for participating in France’s proud tradition of aeronautical innovation and advancement.