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France need not fear Messi

France need to be braver in attack

Kazan Arena

Kick off 15:00 BST

Match odds

France 7/5 –  Bet 365

Argentina 5/2 – Paddy Power

Draw 2/1 –  Sky Bet

If points were awarded at the World Cup for entertainment France would be on their way home. A total of three goals were enough to see France advance to the Round of 16. Ordinarily, the French would be concerned about playing Argentina, but should they be? La Albiceleste have had their own problems. A thumping defeat to Croatia looked to have broken Argentina’s morale. Lionel Messi eased any World Cup exit fears with a sublime goal against Nigeria. Anxiety levels were through the roof in South America. Argentina’s winner in midweek came from an unlikely source in Marcos Rojo.

Take the brakes off

If Argentina are cobbled together to support one man, then France are the opposite of that. The French posses a number of highly talented players including Kylian Mbappe, Nabil Fekir and Antoine Griezmann. Didier Deschamps should know enough about Argentina to realise that his midfield are far better than Argentina’s. Deschamps has a number of high quality forwards to really get at an unsettled Argentina defence. Jorge Sampaoli has switched between a four and a three at the back, neither system looks particularly good. If France can take the game to Argentina in the way Croatia did it will be a long afternoon for Messi et al.

Suspension alert

Let’s hope that this game isn’t a case of ‘protecting’ individual players. Three French players will need to avoid a booking or risk missing the quarter-finals, Corentin Tolisso, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi.  Argentina have five players at risk of missing the quarter-finals including the skipper. Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Acuna, Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega and Lionel Messi are those at risk.

Argentina have struggled for form in 2018. They don’t have too many standout players. They have Messi but he looks like a man carrying the weight of his nation on his shoulders. France have a real opportunity to make it to the last-eight. Can Deschamps get the best out of his squad? He played a 4-3-3 against Australia, a system that looked more suited to France’s attacking players. French fans won’t want to see the kind of performance witnessed in the drab 0-0 draw with Denmark, nor will the rest-of-the-world.

Prediction

France 2-1 Argentina

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