France will be full of confidence heading into their last 16 clash with an Argentina side struggling for form and reported unrest of senior players over team selection.
2018 World Cup
Date: 30 June 2018
Round of 16
Kick-off: 16H00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Kazan Arena
Referee: Alireza Faghani
France 0-2 Argentina 11/02/09 (Friendly)
Argentina goalscorers: J. Gutierrez (40′), L.Messi (83′)
Players to watch:
France have a star-studded line-up, however, fans will be looking to their marquee players to provide their inspiration against Argentina. So far the French have under whelmed, but the likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, supported by the tireless running of N’Golo Kante are expected to turn it on to progress to the quarter-finals.
It was a penalty and own-goal that saw France past Australia, while Mbappe was on target against Peru, as the clash with Denmark ended in the competition’s first goalless draw.
All Argentina eyes will be on mercurial maestro Lionel Messi, who after seeing his draw 1-1 with Iceland, where Sergio Aguero was on target, he came out with a peach of a goal in the 2-1 win over Nigeria after the team was thoroughly outplayed against Croatia.
Team form and manager quotes:
France started slowly in Russia but overcame Australia 2-1 with goals from Griezmann (penalty) and a Aziz Behich own-goal before narrowly seeing off Peru. They come into this game having failed to overcome Denmark, but with their progression having been sealed after their second round of fixtures.
Argentina were shocked to be held by minnows Iceland, drawing 1-1, and must have thought their World Cup was over after a 3-0 mauling by Luka Modric and Co. only for Messi to come good against the Super Eagles, where Marcos Rojo scored a dramatic injury-time winner in a 2-1 win following Victor Moses’ successful penalty.
Ahead of the clash, Griezmann said: “I hope to raise my level again in the last 16.
“It was the same at the Euro(s). It wasn’t until the last 16 that I hit my stride. So we’ll see. I have confidence in my game.”
Argentina head coach Jorge Sampaoli added that star man Messi cannot defeat France on his own.
He added: “He needs the support from his team-mates, only then will he be able to play at his best.
“His human side is amazing. He is a person who feels, who cries, who suffers, who’s happy when Argentina win. I’ve seen him sad and I’ve seen him happy.
“People have said he doesn’t enjoy playing for Argentina. That’s not true.”
France coach Didier Deschamps rested a large number of his first-choice players against Denmark, and will recall them to face Argentina, who will hand a late fitness test to Enzo Perez after he picked up a thigh problem.