Former World Cup winners France and Argentina meet in the first round of 16 match of the 2018 World Cup in a heavyweight encounter brought about by Argentina's failure to win Group D.
Kazan Arena, Kazan, Russian Federation
Key Stat: France have only lost one of their last 15 matches and are unbeaten in their last seven.
Expert Verdict: Argentina will rue not topping Group D when they take on France in their last-16 fixture. France topped Group C without looking fully convincing, while Argentina salvaged their place in the second round with a late winner in their final group game. France will take confidence from Argentina’s recent record, however - a run which includes heavy defeats to Spain, Croatia and Nigeria. While unconvincing themselves, they got results when it mattered - and can add to Argentina’s woes.
The first last-16 match of the 2018 World Cup in Russia sees 1998 champions France take on two-time winners (and 2014 runners-up) Argentina meet at the Kazan Arena. Group C winners France will be looking to beat Group D runners-up Argentina for just the third time in their history, with the match taking place on Saturday June 30. Kick-off is at 5pm local time.
Didier Deschamps rested players against Denmark, with the squad rotation making for a scrappy game of few chances. With none of the replacements standing out, it is likely the XI that started the second group game against Peru will be back in action against Argentina. That would mean Hugo Lloris, Benjamin Pavard, Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Kylian Mbappe all returning to the starting line-up.
Antoine Griezmann (forward) – Scored from the penalty spot in the opening game. The Euro 2016 Golden Boot winner has 21 goals from 56 international appearances.
Kylian Mbappe (forward) – Needs one more goal to become the first teenager to score twice in the same World Cup since Michael Owen at France '98.
Paul Pogba (midfielder) – Manchester United’s £89m man has plenty to prove after a hit-and-miss season at club level, but his quality on his day is undoubted.
France 2-1 Australia
France 1-0 Peru
France 0-0 Denmark
France booked their place in the round of 16 with two wins from their first two matches, defeating Australia thanks to Antoine Griezmann’s penalty and a deflected Paul Pogba strike in their opening game before Kylian Mbappe scored the only goal of the game against Peru. Squad rotation led to a disjointed, scrappy performance against Denmark in their final group game though; the goalless draw was enough for France team to top the group and Denmark to join them in the second round but was met with boos from the Moscow crowd.
France have won five of their last seven games and have drawn the other two. Kylian Mbappe scored a late equaliser against the USA in their final warm-up game - the only other game they had not won prior to the Denmark match. They had previously beaten Russia, Republic of Ireland and Italy in friendlies and, at the World Cup, saw off Australia and Peru to book their second-round place.
Defenders:Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez
Defensive Midfielders:Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante
Attacking Midfielders:Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Blaise Matuidi
Franco Armani made his Argentina debut in goal in the final group game as Willy Caballero paid the price for his clanger in the defeat to Croatia. Unsurprisingly, Argentina made several changes – Sergio Aguero one of the other high-profile players to drop to the bench, though he was brought on and played his part in Argentina Football team grabbing the all-important late winner. Winning goalscorer Marcos Rojo also returned to the starting line-up, with Jorge Sampaoli opting for a back four.
Lionel Messi (forward) – Scored the opening goal against Nigeria after a superb touch and finish to remind everyone of his true quality.
Sergio Aguero (forward) – Will hope to return to the starting line-up after his late cameo – his goal against Iceland was the 38th of his Argentina career.
Nicolas Otamendi (centre-back) – The Premier League title-winning centre-back will need to step up at the heart of Argentina’s defence. Defensive improvement is a must if Argentina are to get further in this World Cup.
Argentina 1-1 Iceland
Argentina 0-3 Croatia
Argentina 2-1 Nigeria
Argentina were on the brink of going home until Marcos Rojo’s late winner against Nigeria – just moments after he had survived a VAR review for handball in the opposite penalty area. Lionel Messi’s missed penalty in the opening draw with Iceland – after Sergio Aguero’s brilliant opener had been cancelled out – and a sub-standard performance in the 3-0 defeat to Croatia had left Argentina needing a win against the Super Eagles. Messi’s opener and Rojo’s late winner ensured they live to fight another day at this World Cup.
Argentina’s victory against Nigeria was only their second in their last five matches – the other coming against minnows Haiti in their only pre-World Cup game as Lionel Messi grabbed a hat-trick and Sergio Aguero scored. Aguero scored again but Messi missed a penalty in the draw with Iceland, before Willy Caballero’s costly error and some sleepy defending led to the 3-0 defeat against Croatia. Messi and a late Marcos Rojo goal saved Argentina’s World Cup hopes last time out, however.
Defenders:Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Tagliafico
Midfielders:Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano, Maximiliano Meza
Forwards:Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain
France have won just two of their 11 previous matches against Argentina, with two of their six defeats occurring in World Cup games - in 1930 and 1972. More recently, Argentina have won their only two matches since the turn of the century, earning a 1-0 friendly win in 2007 and a 2-0 victory two years later. Lionel Messi scored the second of Argentina’s two goals in the win in 2009, in Marseille.
France are unbeaten in their last seven matches, of which they have won five.
Kylian Mbappe needs one more goal to become the first teenager to score twice at a World Cup since Michael Owen at France '98.
Argentina have won just two of their last eight competitive matches
Argentina have won every game Lionel Messi has scored in since a 2-2 draw with Mexico in September 2015.
Argentina may have kept their World Cup hopes alive with a late win against Nigeria but they have been less than impressive at this tourmament and, indeed, in the build-up to it too.
They have won just two of their last eight competitive matches, though both wins came when the pressure was really on – Lionel Messi scoring a hat-trick in Argentina’s must-win final qualifier, and their superstar captain scoring again in the must-win match against Nigeria last time out.
In non-competitive matches they have been poor too – the 6-1 defeat to Spain in March really highlighting how far they have fallen away since being World Cup runners-up in 2014.
France, on the other hand, were also unconvincing – two narrow wins and a bore draw in their three matches at the tournament.
But France qualified for this match as group winners and did so without any major dramas, allowing them to rest key players last time out – the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and co are all set to return to face Argentina.
The only thing in Argentina’s favour is the fact they did eventually beat Nigeria to reach the last-16. Germany and Poland would do anything to be in their situation having failed in that task themselves.
The boost the late win gave them was obvious from the celebrations afterwards and if they can keep that winning mentality going they can still turn things around.
Ultimately, however, France have been by far the better of the two teams lately – both in Russia and in the warm-up matches earlier this year too.
France got here as group winners and so, although their last-16 match will be tougher than they would have wanted, they should still have the quality to get through to the quarter-finals.
France are a best price of 7/5 with Betfair and 10Bet to beat Argentina in their last-16 match, with the Albiceleste 13/5 with Bet365 by contrast.
Argentina have been below par but scraped through to this stage, whereas France did so comfortably even if they also did not look at their best.
The difference, however, is France have been able to get the job done where Argentina struggled – the draw with Iceland being a prime example.
Nevertheless, both teams to score has been set at a generous 6/5 with 10Bet – high considering one team boasts Mbappe, Griezmann and co up front and the other are spearheaded by Messi, Aguero and/or Higuain.
By the same token, Argentina’s matches against the bigger teams – Spain and Croatia lately – have produced goals. Spain hit six and Croatia three. Over 2.5 goals in Saturday’s last-16 match will return a small profit at 8/5 with Betfair and 888sport.
Lionel Messi is 11/5 with 888sport to score at any time, while Kylian Mbappe will be hoping to return to the French team with a goal and is 27/10 to net too.
Argentina did just enough to get through to the last 16, but in failing to win Group D they have landed a tough second-round match. France also need to improve as this tournament goes on, but on the evidence so far they are the more likely to manage that.