The knockout stages of the World Cup begin on Saturday and the first game promises to be a cracker, with France taking on Argentina. It’s a fixture that brings two heavyweights of international football together and two who have ambitions of lifting the prestigious trophy in mid-July. However, they haven’t shown that in Russia so far.
France managed to grind out seven points from their three Group C games but were hugely unimpressive. Their key attacking players didn’t deliver, they didn’t play with intensity and purpose and their final game goalless draw with Denmark was without doubt the worst in the tournament so far.
Meanwhile, Argentina have been anything but boring but they have been bang average. A poor draw with Iceland was followed by a real low point when they were thrashed by Croatia. Yet, results went their way and a late win over Nigeria ensured the South Americans scraped through. Yet, the fallout from the Croatia defeat is still in the air, with reports of Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano picking the team and arguments between several players. Nevertheless, they’re in the knockout stages but will start as outsiders against the talented French side.
Here we will give you France vs Argentina betting tips, look at where the game will be won, the key players and a France vs Argentina prediction for the last 16 clash.
Our France vs Argentina Prediction: France 2-0 Argentina
Our France vs Argentina prediction tips is for an entertaining game that France will win relatively comfortably that will see them move into the last eight.
Les Bleus went into Russia as one of the favourites to lift the trophy, yet despite qualifying as group winners, a lot of people are not convinced by Didier Deschamps men. They are not playing well, they are scraping through on individual moments and don’t look a balanced side. However, they still have the potential to be tournament winners because of the quality they have in the squad. There are few weaknesses in the XI and quality in every department and if France click they could be unstoppable.
Another source for confidence is how bad La Albiceleste have been. We’ve mentioned the disharmony in the camp and Jorge Sampaoli is not calling the shots now, whislt performances have been alarming. They were better against Nigeria but the way they capitulated against Croatia and have conceded chances in every game will delight the French.
Our recommended tip – France to win
Given that, we think France will have too much in attack for a weak Argentina defence and progress to the final eight despite the brilliance of Messi.
Argentina have to continue in the 4-3-3 that they adopted against Nigeria and they did look balanced. Yet, once they conceded an equaliser they fell apart for 20 minutes and it took a wondergoal from Marcos Rojo to turn things around – but France won’t be as forgiving. Not only do the French have much better players, other than Messi, but they are a stronger team and have a better mentality. Again, we’d stress that they haven’t hit their potential yet but Argentina have been chaotic defensively and it will tell against quality forwards.
The South Americans are totally reliant on Messi and whilst he’s a major threat to France, the reality is their collective is far superior to Argentina’s.
The clash in Kazan will be the 12th time these sides have met and it’s a fixture that Argentina have dominated, winning the six of the previous meetings. As well as that, they hold a 100% record in the World Cup, beating the French in 1930 and back in ’78 when they went on to win the tournament.
As for their form, as mentioned France have been very poor. They fortunately beat Australia, thanks to a debatable penalty and a deflection, before sneaking past Peru and finished up with that dreadful Denmark draw. Key players, such as Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe have only shown flashes of their talent whilst their general play has been sloppy.
Yet, Argentina have been no better. Any success is totally dependent on Messi playing well, yet in the draw to Iceland and particularly the Croatia loss, they played in a style that meant he rarely got on the ball. That changed against Nigeria with the introduction of Ever Banega, who set up the Barcelona stars wonderful goal against the Africans. They have to play the same way against France and look to get Messi on the ball in the final third instead of forcing him to come deep.
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Players to watch – N’Golo Kante & Lionel Messi
Given Argentina’s defensive issues, France will back themselves to comfortably win if they can keep Messi reasonably quiet. Obviously that will be a big ask but they have arguably the best man in the world for the job with Chelsea’s Kante. His energy, pace and positional play will be key in shutting Messi down, blocking space and preventing passes into his feet in dangerous positions. If the former Leicester man can stop him running at the France defence then they will have a great opportunity of reaching the last eight.
Argentina’s reliance on Messi can’t be understated. He was the only reason they got to Russia, scoring a hat-trick in the must-win final game and the side won virtually all their points in games he played in the qualifiers. And, that has carried on at this tournament. They were poor against Iceland, with Messi at fault for missing a penalty, whilst he couldn’t get on the ball as they were demolished by Croatia. The 4-3-3 that included Banega got more out of Messi but they will need him to find another level against France if they are to progress – but he’s capable of doing so.