|The Round of 16 at the World Cup often produces one or two matches which are deemed good enough for the final. We have one such game on Saturday 30th June as France and Argentina meet in Kazan for a place in the 2018 World Cup quarter-final.
The French came into the tournament on the back of a disappointing Euro 2016 final and will be hoping to put that behind them with a good performance in Russia. Argentina struggled to qualify but now they are here they have one eye on the trophy.
France were favourites to top Group C but were never going to have things their own way in a group which contained Denmark, Australia and Peru.
Their first match was against Australia and despite taking the lead, France needed a late deflected goal to defeat Australia, who were deemed the weakest team in the group. The following match was against Peru, who played well but could not force the breakthrough. A single goal from Kylian Mbappe was enough to secure another 3 points for the French.
France knew they had done enough before their final match against Denmark. With Peru beating Australia in the other game, neither team needed to win and the game was played out as a 0-0 draw.
Argentina started their World Cup campaign with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Iceland. Having taken the lead, Argentina missed a penalty and were forced to settle for a draw with the European minnows.
Things got a lot worse for Argentina in their second match against Croatia. There was no organisation or discipline to Argentina’s game and they fell apart in the match, conceding 3 goals without reply.
Argentina knew they needed to win their final match against Nigeria to qualify for the Round of 16. A moment of magic from Lionel Messi, his first real contribution to the tournament, saw Argentina take the lead but they were pegged back from the penalty spot. However, a late goal from Marcos Rojo was enough to send Argentina through.
Looking ahead to the team news and France are expected to make several changes to the team which started the Denmark match. Paul Pogba, Hugo Lloris and Kylian Mbappe are all expected to return to the team. There are doubts over central defender Samuel Umtiti but he should recover in time to play.
Argentina have every player fit and available. That could mean the same starting XI from the match against Nigeria and no place in the team for Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. Javier Mascherano, Lionel Messi and Nicolas Otamendi must be careful as they are one yellow card away from suspension.
This has the makings of a thrilling World Cup game. France know they need to keep Messi quiet and if they do that, should have enough to win. Expect to see goals scored at both ends of the pitch but for the quality of the French to shine through and win the game.