Saturday starts with a matchup of two teams most would’ve considered World Cup favorites. Since the start of the World Cup, France and Argentina have put in less than stellar performances. They both remained on course for the objective, get out of the group. Two countries with great football history, France and Argentina are both precious World Cup winners. France winning in 1998, as Argentina did before them in 1978 and 1986. It does not matter how it gets done, just as long as it gets done, in terms of victory. Once you’ve made it out of the group rounds, the strategy changes. The stakes are risen and the game is taken to a new edge. Mistakes are more crucial. One thing about France and Argentina, it will be physical.
Will we see Argentina make another final?
The first step for La Albiceleste, will be continuing its momentum off its win against Nigeria. A win they needed to make the knockout rounds. Argentina faced Iceland and fell short against the Vikings, getting a 1-1 Draw in their opening match. After getting pummeled by Croatia, 3-0, Argentina beat Nigeria 2-1 to secure their next round visit.
Just look at that beautiful goal by Messi. What a ball by Banega to set up Messi. Argentina will need more of that against France. The midfield for Argentina will be an interesting selection for Jorge Sampaoli. Banega must start for Argentina, he was arguably their best player against Nigeria. He links up nicely with Messi from midfield, and he can dictate pace. Something Argentina lacked the first two games, in which he didn’t start. Their defense has had shaky moments this World Cup, and they’ll need to put all that behind them. Armani had his first Start for Argentina last match, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Goalkeeper conducts his back line, against the pace of France.
After steadying the ship against Nigeria, Argentina will most likely go with the same line up, and same formation that helped them beat Nigeria 2-1. It’ll remain to be seen, on how the substitutes will work out for Argentina. Two constants that’s can change the game off the bench, Cristian Pavon and Maximiliano Meza. They can inject some pace and bring a more direct attack, something they might need if trailing France. I’m curious to see if Higuain starts, or if Sergio Agüero will get the nod. Higuain was rather flat against Nigeria, but did his job well holding up play. My guess would be Agüero against this tough France back line. The pace of Agüero will be required to break the high back line of France.
France haven’t looked themselves this tournament, so far. Maybe it’s to the benefit of Les Bleus, they haven’t played their best match yet. Didier Deschamps men, need to come out and take the game to Argentina. France can also elect to sit back, allow Argentina to try to develop play, and expose the back line of Argentina. The 4-3-3 of France can become very direct at times, but with Pogba in midfield, you can always expect a few moments of magic. With Kanté being a one man wrecking crew, in midfield, Pogba can look for more space ahead of him. Giroud will most likely get the start for France. He dictates play better, and is physical on set pieces. Something France will need to take advantage off. Argentina will foul often. Griezmann will play right off Giroud and feed those ones and twos. The runs from Mbappé or Dembele, off the ball, will be what breaks down the Argentina defense. If Deschamps decides to bench Giroud, who hasn’t put a shot on target yet this World Cup, then we’ll probably see Dembele get the start.
In two teams that are stacked with elite talent, it will come down to how each team can control their parts of the match. It will be a fairly open affair, with attacking and skill on display. As well you will see the ability of Messi on display. Counter that with the goal scoring ability of Griezmann, it’s sure to excite things a bit. The matchup I’m looking forward to, will be Varane and Umtiti against Messi. The defenders will feel familiar with their foe, as Umtiti is Messi’s teammate at Barcelona. Varane is Messi’s biggest rival at Real Madrid. I look to see an awesome performance from the center backs of France. They may just keep Messi out, but can they keep the clean sheet?
For the sake of seeing Cristiano and Messi matchup in the Quarterfinals, Argentina will need a huge day in defense. The electrifying team of France, hasn’t shown up yet to this tournament. Will tomorrow be the day?
This is your first knockout round matchup, and it’s going to be great. Enjoy it. Watch it. Live it. Saturday morning. 7am pacific standard time. Don’t miss it.