France vs Argentina Preview: International titans meet in the opening knockout stage game

Two former winners of the World Cup meet in the opening last 16 game on Saturday afternoon but who will come out on top?

The knockout stages of the World Cup gets underway on Saturday afternoon with a mouthwatering clash which sees France coming up against Argentina at the Kazan Arena.

Both sides will go into this match with real hope of progressing to the quarter-finals as with holders Germany bowing out at the group stages, both sides will feel this could be their year.

The only problem they have though as neither side have looked convincing so far in this World Cup. 

 

Les Bleus topped their group but struggled

Les Bleus topped group C after defeating Australia 2-1 in their opening game, before defeating Peru 1-0 in their second game which confirmed their progress to the round of 16.

It meant that it came down to their last game against Denmark to see if the would finish top, which they did after a drab 0-0 draw which saw both sides hardly break a sweat.

Throughout these games though, Les Bleus didn't play well at all which has led to many people saying that they will struggle on the knockout stages.

 

La Albiceleste needed a late winner to move on

Their opponents, Argentina, on the other hand, only confirmed their place in the knockout stages with a late win against Nigeria in their third and final group D game.

La Albiceleste began their Group D campaign with much anticipation but they were brought back down to earth after being held to a 1-1 draw against Iceland.

Things got even harder for Argentina in their second game as they were convincingly beaten 3-0 by Croatia.

It meant that in their final game it was either win or bust and they managed to just about scrape over the line as Marcos Rojo netted an 86th-minute winner against the Super Eagles to send Argentina through to the last-16 as runners-up of Group D.

If they have plans of going past the last 16 though they will have to up their game against France or they will have done all that hard work for no reason.

 

Key players

Paul Pogba is France's key player for the game as it was clear to see that when he was rested against the Danes in the last group game, they lacked that extra spark from midfielder that the Manchester United man gives them. 

Lionel Messi is the key player for Argentina as if he has a good day he can take his country to glory.

The little magician finally got off the mark in his country's last game against Nigeria with a great finish and now will be hoping to kick on and score more.

Team News and predicted lineups

In terms of team news for the game, Didier Deschamps rested a few of his key players for the last group game against Denmark but he is likely to go back to his strongest side for the game against Argentina.

France predicted XI: (4-2-3-1) Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Kante, Pogba; Mbappe, Griezmann, Matuidi; Giroud.

Argentinean coach Jorge Sampaoli could make at least one change to his side from their win against Nigeria, with Sergio Aguero coming into the side to replace the ineffective Gonzalo Higuaín. 

Argentina predicted XI: (4-3-3) Armani; Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico; Mascherano, Banega, Perez; Di Maria, Aguero, Messi.

Referee: Alireza Faghani (Iran).