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29 Jun 2018

World Cup 2018: France vs Argentina - Lineups, Preview & Prediction

World Cup 2018: France vs Argentina - Lineups, Preview &
Prediction

The World Cup knockout phase gets underway when two of football's biggest names face off in Kazan.

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15:00 BST, Saturday 30 June, Kazan Arena (Kazan, Russia), ITV1

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Last Time Out

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France Lineup

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Argentina Lineup

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Key Battle: N'Golo Kante (France) vs Lionel Messi (Argentina)

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Talking Points

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Prediction: France 2-1 Argentina [AET]

15:00 BST, Saturday 30 June, Kazan Arena (Kazan, Russia), ITV1

The World Cup knockout stages get underway on Saturday when France and Argentina battle it out for a spot in the quarter-finals. Arguably the standout tie in the last-16, one of football's biggest international giants will go home early.

France and Argentina have three World Cup titles between them and are two of football's most successful nations.

Having had varying degrees of success throughout the group stages - Argentina scraping through by the skin of their teeth and France remaining unconvincing despite staying unbeaten with two wins and a draw - these two nations are meeting far sooner in Russia than many expected.

Last Time Out

France 0-0 Denmark

Didier Deschamps' France finished their group stage campaign with a dull stalemate against fellow qualifiers Denmark.

Both sides were in Group C's driving seat before kickoff, with the already eliminated Peru playing Australia in the other game. The Aussies could have pipped Denmark to second spot, but needed to beat Peru and hope that France beat the Danes.

REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

With Peru going 2-0 up early in the second half, the prospect of both sides playing out the suitable draw increased. The Danes knew their place was safe and couldn't break down the French defence in a game that featured few clear-cut chances.

Nigeria 1-2 Argentina

The stakes were much higher for Argentina going into their final group game. Having drawn with Iceland in the opening round of games, Jorge Sampaoli's side were thumped by a clinical Croatia, as their hopes of progression hung in the balance.

Argentina needed to beat Nigeria and hope that Iceland didn't beat the Croatians by a greater margin. The South Americans started brightly and took the lead after 15 minutes when Lionel Messi brilliantly controlled an Ever Banega pass and fired home.

REUTERS/Henry Romero

Nigeria, though, with their fate in their own hands, pressed and were rewarded with a penalty early in the second half. Victor Moses rolled in the spot-kick, as Argentina's time was running out. 

With four minutes left on the clock - after Odion Ighalo, particularly, missed an array of chances - Marcos Rojo found space to hit an unlikely winner for his struggling side. Croatia's second goal also meant that, as long as they held on to their lead, Argentina were going through.

France Lineup

Deschamps will reinstate the first team players who were afforded a rest for the 0-0 stalemate with Denmark.

Samuel Umtiti, Benjamin Pavard and Paul Pogba will slot back into their respective positions, with Olivier Giroud leading the line, supported by Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.

Blaise Matuidi could, again, take up an unusual position on the left flank with the intention of doubling up on Messi.

Argentina Lineup

Argentina's lineup is not an easy one to predict. If the rumours of Jorge Sampaoli's authority being overthrown are true, then it seems likely that the senior players will once again stick with the 4-4-2 system they chose against Nigeria.

Willy Caballero will hope to be reinstated in goal, though this is unlikely as Franco Armani impressed, whilst Sergio Aguero will offer a more potent threat up front than the recently blunt Gonzalo Higuain.

Enzo Perez will be hoping to keep his place, though both Cristian Pavon and Maximiliano Meza are pushing to start.

Key Battle: N'Golo Kante (France) vs Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane will be kept busy by whoever the Argentines place up front, leaving the duty of policing Lionel Messi down to the midfield.

Messi's role in his side isn't regimented. His freedom to float across the attacking lines makes him hard to pick up, but Deschamps will look to N'Golo Kante to follow Messi around and ensure his time on the ball is limited, reducing the attacking threat.

REUTERS/Carl Recine

Kante's tireless attitude will prove a headache for Messi, and he must do what he can to escape the Chelsea star's clutches, who has had a brilliant World Cup thus far, even by his own extremely lofty standards.

Talking Points

Can France get out of second gear?

Deschamps' side have struggled to go forward, scoring only three goals in the group stages.  Many expected the trio of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele to bring a new level of threat to defences, but things haven't gone to plan.

Whilst looking good on paper, they don't have the same understanding they would from playing together regularly at club level. Hence, a lack of fluidity in their positioning, often occupying the same areas.

REUTERS/Carl Recine



After limping to a 2-1 win over Australia in the opening game, Deschamps elected to revert to the system that worked so well in qualifying. Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe were restored up front as the French tried to grease the hinges.

Despite an improved performance, France have yet to get going in Russia, and must step things up quickly if they're to avoid a surprise exit against an Argentina side that have sprung into life.

Are Argentina managerless?

The situation in the Argentina camp has been the centre of discussion since the humbling defeat to Croatia in the second game. Reports have suggested that manager Sampaoli has been exiled by his players, who have taken first-team matters into their own hands.

REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Senior players allegedly decided the starting XI for the final group game against Nigeria - with Messi, too, giving the final team talks at half-time and reportedly making the call to bring on Aguero - and the South American nation started with an intent and energy we hadn't seen.

The difference in the two sets of performances strongly suggests that the rumours may well be true. In that case, Argentina will continue their journey in Russia without a proper manager at the helm. Based on the evidence, however, is that such a problem?

The importance of Ever Banega

Argentines everywhere had been calling for Sampaoli to include Ever Banega into the side, which he finally did against Nigeria and the difference was pronounced. La Albiceleste looked a side that had purpose to possession, deriving from Banega's creativity in midfield.

REUTERS/Henry Romero

It ensured Messi didn't have to drop deeper to pick up the ball and could rely on his teammate to pick out his runs in behind, as he did to great effect for their opener against the Super Eagles. It was a phenomenal pass from Banega that Messi controlled brilliantly to make it 1-0.

Argentina will, again, rely on Banega's range of passing to find Messi in advanced positions.

Prediction: France 2-1 Argentina [AET]

The standout tie of the round. These two nations are two of football's biggest names, but one has to go home sooner than planned. The French promised so much heading into the tournament, but have yet to deliver and now is no time to be trying to find a groove.

Argentina have been fortunate to get to the second stage, and if they are to get any further, they must change their ways, and fast.

This one may well be decided in the midfield, and France are superior to their opponents in that department. It'll be a long, tense slog that will go to extra time. 2-1.

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 15 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.