Having gotten some fantastic matches already in the group stages, one would be foolish to disagree that the upcoming round of 16 clashes are far more mouth-watering. The first of these matches sees two of the biggest teams in the competition go head to head and while the fans of these two nations must be nervy of their teams’ prospects, the neutrals could not be more excited.
The 45000-seater Kazan Arena hosts this big game.
France – The French have had an underwhelming World Cup so far but are a difficult team to beat,
having lost just one game since August 2017, a friendly defeat to Colombia in March 2018.
Past 5 games – W-D-W-W-D
Argentina – The South-Americans have had an abysmal tournament but are luckily still alive. They have had 3 big defeats in the past 3 months and their World Cup 2018 form hasn’t been their usual best.
Past 5 games – L-W-D-L-W
Though Argentina look the poorer side on current form, they have a good record against the French. In the 12 matches between the two teams, Argentina have the upper hand with 6 wins to two (D3) and have kept a clean sheet in 8 of their previous 11 matches against France. They have also won the two games they have faced France in a World Cup, in 1930 and 1978.
France – The only injury doubt is defender Samuel Umtiti, though he is expected to be back for this
game. Coach Deschamps will be expected to get his regular starters back after fielding a second-string team against Denmark. Mbappe, Pogba, Matuidi, and Lloris all will most likely return to the starting line-
Argentina – There are thankfully no injury scares for coach Jorge Sampaoli, although he has had a
tough time finding the right combination, having made a lot of changes to his team over the three group stage games. The team seemed to have found some of their rhythm back against Nigeria and it could very well be the same starting lineup, which amazingly kept Paulo Dybala on the sidelines.
France – After contributing a crucial goal in the first game and another strong performance in the
second, the rested Paul Pogba will be central to his team’s attacking play, creating chances from
midfield while also making dangerous runs into the box and unleashing some powerful shots if allowed from outside.
Argentina – It’s no secret that Lionel Messi is the man who has been carrying this Argentinian team for well over a year now, and once again much will depend on his form against a sturdy French defense. His amazing dribbling skills coupled with his visionary passing and efficient finishing will all hold the key to his side scoring.
While a clash between two historical heavyweights is never easy to predict, it does seem that France
may edge this one out, based on current form (or the lack of it for Argentina) and the arguably superior players across the pitch, except maybe the little magician Argentina have. Barring any disastrous errors in defense and poor decision-making in attack, it should be the Frenchmen who advance to the next round.