MX23RW : Wednesday, February 20 14:33:20
Jun 30, 2018 at 3pm UK at ​Kazan Arena
Attendance: 42,873
Griezmann (13' pen.), Pavard (57'), Mbappe (64', 68')
FT(HT: 1-1)
di Maria (41'), Mercado (48'), Aguero (90')

Preview: France vs. Argentina - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides predicted XIs, team news and a full match preview for the World Cup last-16 clash between France and Argentina.

France and Argentina head into their World Cup encounter on Saturday with the chance to progress through to the quarter-finals, but both sides are yet to convince that they are capable of lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy on July 15.

France topped Group C with seven points but netted just three goals in the process, while Argentina required a late volley from Marcos Rojo to secure their progress with a 2-1 win over Nigeria on Tuesday evening.


France manager Didier Deschamps on March 19, 2018© Reuters

Finishing at the top of your World Cup group generally results in plenty of optimism ahead of the knockout stages, but that is not the case when it comes to France, who have had to battle their way through to the last 16.

There are positives to take from seven points being recorded from three games without getting near to a performance which would have been deemed acceptable by their supporters, but France's flair players are yet to show up at this tournament.

Les Bleus showed a touch of class with their winner against Peru but aside from that, their other two goals - both against Australia - came from a controversial penalty and an own goal, and three halves of football have now passed since France's last goal.

Didier Deschamps will not be too concerned because his priority is winning this tournament, but there is a large abundance of talent in his squad - chosen from arguably the deepest crop of quality in world football - and it is currently perceived that Deschamps and his players are not meeting expectations.

On the flipside, convincing performances may not have been the best preparation for attempting to negotiate this side of the draw. The winner of this tie goes on to play whoever prevails from the Uruguay and Portugal encounter, and both matches have the potential to be a war of attrition.

Deschamps has also kept the majority of this players involved with 20 of his 23-man squad having all spent time on the pitch, although there was little benefit from featuring during the final 30 minutes of the Denmark game in which both teams barely played above walking pace.

That is perhaps the biggest challenge for Deschamps - he now has to prepare a team who are ready to go into battle against opposition who have already received strong criticism back home and have overcome adversity to progress through their group.

At some point,these two sides will showcase the kind of football that the world is expecting, but Saturday's match could come down to desire and France will have to step up their performance to match an increasing belief within the Argentina camp.

Recent form: WWDWWD


Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli on May 30, 2018© Reuters

While there has been an element of control about the way that France have progressed through their group, the same cannot be said of Argentina who required a goal from an unlikely source to maintain their interest in this competition.

Most of the attention has been focused on the indifferent performances of Lionel Messi, the treatment of Sergio Aguero and goalkeeping errors from Willy Caballero, but Rojo's well-struck volley during the latter stages against Nigeria got Argentina and manager Jorge Sampaoli out of jail, for the time being at least.

La Albiceleste and their passionate fans will not be satisfied with scrapping their way through to a stage of the World Cup which is still not regarded as the bare minimum, but there will equally be an air of relief with getting through to the knockout rounds.

There is no getting away from the fact that Argentina have been desperately below par and that the outings from their backline will only provide encouragement for future opponents, but a win such as the one over Nigeria can unite a squad.

Doubts remain over the strength of the relationship between Sampaoli and his players, however. The reality of the situation is that Sampaoli was minutes away from losing his job but Rojo's perfectly-timed strike - in more ways than one - leaves the national team coach still in contention for unlikely success over the next couple of weeks.

Argentina find themselves in the toughest half of the draw but unlike in their previous matches where they have come up against opposition who do not necessarily stimulate motivation and pride, games against France, Portugal or Uruguay and potentially Brazil in the semi-finals are fixtures where Argentine players are prepared to live and die by the sword.

The demands are there for the players to rouse themselves, but supporters will also be eager to see what answers they get from Sampaoli, who continues to divide opinion when it comes to his team selection and tactics.

There does not appear to be a set strategy going forward, although that does not mean that this Argentina team should be written off. France are marginal favourites to progress this weekend but an underdog tag is not something which you would usually associate with Argentina and they could relish it.

Recent form: WLWDLW

Team News

Sergio Aguero scores the opener during the World Cup group game between Argentina and Iceland on June 16, 2018© Reuters

Aguero will hope to get another chance in the starting lineup after Gonzalo Higuain was ineffective against Nigeria earlier this week.

Franco Armani will almost certainly retain his place between the sticks after making his debut in midweek, but Angel Di Maria's spot in the team is at risk.

There are calls for Paulo Dybala to be given an opportunity from the start, but Sampaoli is unlikely to select each of the Juventus playmaker, Messi and Aguero.

Deschamps has already proven that he is happy to mix up his squad, leaving it difficult to predict which players will feature on Saturday.

Hugo Lloris will return in goal, while Samuel Umtiti and Paul Pogba will feature in defence and midfield respectively, but Deschamps has decisions to make regarding the make-up of his attack.

Kylian Mbappe is expected to come in for Ousmane Dembele, but Olivier Giroud is not a certain starter and Antoine Griezmann could play down the middle.

Nabil Fekir has impressed from the bench and may start, while Djibril Sidibe could get the nod over Benjamin Pavard at right-back.

France possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Sidibe, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Kante, Matuidi; Mbappe, Pogba, Fekir; Griezmann

Argentina possible starting lineup:
Armani; Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico; Mascherano, Banega, Perez; Meza, Aguero, Messi

Head To Head

Saturday's showdown will represent the 12th meeting between these two nations, with Argentina recording six victories and France prevailing on just the two occasions.

Their first clash came at the first World Cup in 1930, while two matches have taken place since France emerged victorious in a friendly in 1986.

Argentina have won the last two fixtures on French soil, with a 1-0 victory being recorded in Paris in 2007 and a 2-0 triumph coming in Marseille in 2009.

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We say: France 1-1 Argentina

This match has got a low-scoring draw and penalties written all over it, despite the quality in both teams. We expect Argentina to build on their victory over Nigeria but we are backing France to progress on penalties.

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Who will win Saturday's World Cup last-16 clash between France and Argentina?

Sergio Aguero misses a penalty during the World Cup group game between Argentina and Iceland on June 16, 2018
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