Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi Reuters

Stop Lionel Messi and a quarterfinal place in the FIFA World Cup 2018 will be sealed – that will be the France thinking, when they play Argentina in the round of 16 on Saturday.

With the Les Bleus, a little unluckily, getting Argentina in the first knockout round of the tournament, what Didier Deschamps will be wary of is making such an early exit from the tournament, despite having all that talent in his squad, capable of clinching the World Cup title.

However, what France also need to look at is that Argentina finished second in their group, and only qualified through a late goal owing to a reason. They just haven't been that good in this Fifa World Cup 2018.

Indeed, you can argue this Argentina side haven't been that good for a while, with their reliance on Messi, obvious, and, as a result, easier to handle.

The fact that Argentina is so one-dimensional does hand the advantage to France, however, as we have seen so many times in the past, when it comes to these knockout stages, pretty much anything is possible.

Messi might light the Kazan Arena up on Saturday or this Argentina side, with serious talent in their squad, might actually, finally, figure out a way to play like a team.

France will need to take all of those and more into consideration, but this is a game that the European side should really fancy winning.

Team news:


Deschamps will not have the services of Benjamin Mendy, the injury-prone left-back, to call upon, with the Manchester City man not fit enough to take the field on Saturday. So, Lucas Hernandez will take the left-back position, but Deschamps does have a decision to make in the other full-back area.

Benjamin Pavard started the first two Fifa World Cup 2018 group games and did reasonably well, but that isn't his most natural position. Djibril Sidibe did ok in the last game, so he might hope to make another start.

Deschamps will rely on the La Liga defensive trio of Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti and Hernandez to stop Messi, with both very familiar with the Argentinian's talents, considering they play for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid respectively.

Against an Argentina defence that has looked really shaky, will Deschamps unleash his young attackers – maybe, play Paul Pogba alongside N'Golo Kante and play three proper attackers ahead along with Olivier Giroud? That would be a risk, and it is more likely that Blaise Matuidi or Corentin Tolisso will get the nod.


Jorge Sampaoli went back to four in defence for the final game of their group – a last-gasp 2-1 win over Nigeria – and with that producing a win, the manager might just go with the same XI one more time. That would mean Gonzalo Higuain getting picked ahead of Sergio Aguero to support Messi up front, while Angel Di Maria, despite being poor against Nigeria, might get another game from the start.

Possible XI

France: Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; Blaise Matuidi, N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba; Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann; Olivier Giroud.

Argentina: Franco Armani; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Tagliafico; Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez, Angel Di Maria; Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain.