Looking at the recent past and the players available for both countries, Les Bleus of France have the edge over La Albiceleste of Argentina. But that equation is balanced by the presence of Lionel Messi and history.
For all his greatness, Messi has never scored in the knockout stage of a FIFA World Cup – a stat he would love to exterminate on Saturday.
For France, it was at this stage that they met Nigeria in Brazil and triumphed.
Head to head
Wed 11/02/09 FRI France 0 – 2 Argentina
Wed 07/02/07 FRI France 0 – 1 Argentina
Tue 06/06/78 WOC Argentina 2 – 1 France
Tue 15/07/30 WOC Argentina 1 – 0 France
Current Form [Last 5 matches]
Three Duels To Watch
Javier Mascherano vs Paul Pogba
Mascherano is 34, old, has seen it all and seems past it; but he is still a needed cog in the Argentine wheel while Pogba is supposed to be the comb on the head of the cockerel, the distinguishing factor.
But France have laboured even though they won their group with seven points. Mascherano is set as the shield of the defence while Pogba is the tipping point for the French attack. An interesting battle lies ahead.
Lionel Messi vs Lucas Hernandez
For the must-win match against Nigeria, Jorge Sampaoli deployed a 4-3-3 formation with Messi on the right side, and he scored his first goal of the World Cup. Common sense dictates he will do the same against France, which means Messi will go face-to-face with the hard tackler, Hernandez.
The Atletico Madrid defender will be facing the most consistent dribbler in Messi  even though the Argentina magician must also be wary because Hernandez has had four shots on target in two matches.
Nicolas Otamendi vs Antoine Griezmann
This will be an intriguing battle because Otamendi likes the physical battle while Griezmann deals in space. If France go with Olivier Giroud as the spearhead, then Otamendi will have his battle but if Didier Deschamps wants to be cute and goes with a front three of Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, and Ousmane Dembele then the Argentine defence, anchored by Otamendi will face a serious challenge.
Referee In Charge
40-year-old Alireza Faghani is Iranian and has been a FIFA-graded referee since 2008 although this is his first appearance at a World Cup.
He has refereed two games at Russia 2018; Mexico’s 1-0 win over Germany and Brazil’s 2-0 win over Serbia, in which he showed seven yellow cards in total.
WORLD CUP FACT: France have the advantage of having experienced the Kazan pitch: their opening 2-1 victory over Australia was achieved there!
Prediction: Argentina 2-3 France
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