The first Round of 16 encounter throws up two heavyweights who both have flattered to deceive at Russia 2018. France’s performances have been unconvincing, their team selections inconsistent, and in some cases inherently bizarre (central midfielder Blaise Matuidi on the left wing vs Peru). They struggled to dominate their group, and given the weapons at their disposal, only 3 goals from only 13 shots on target (of which 1 was a penalty, and one was an own goal) represents a considerably poor return for a side. They’re one of only two sides in the Round of 16 with 1 or less goals from open play. Only 51% of their 36 shots have occurred in the box, further highlighting the issues they have in creativity.
France vs Argentina Prediction and Preview
Argentina, meanwhile, needed an inspired performance in their final game to progress at the expense of Nigeria. In fairness to Lionel Messi’s side, his nation were humbled 3-0 by arguably the most impressive side at the tournament – Croatia – but under-fire coach Jorge Sampaoli hasn’t helped, with already trying three different systems, and with peculiar choices in rotation. In their favour is the numbers; while a return of 3 goals from 14 shots on target is the worst conversion of all the remaining teams, 34% of their shots have been blocked (of the remaining teams, only Colombia have had more blocked). This suggests Argentina aren’t that far away from finding a formula to leverage the full extent of the attacking talent at their disposal.
Didier Deschamps shouldn’t deviate from the 4231 that was used against Peru and Denmark; what it seems to lack in creativity, it delivers in solidity, and the midfield pairing of Pogba and Kante is unlikely to be broken ahead of a back 4 featuring Varane and Umtiti at its core. Upfront, the expectation is that Olivier Giroud will retain his spot with Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe behind, leaving an intriguing choice between Lemar, Dembele, Matuidi and Fekir for the final attacking midfield slot.
Argentina, meanwhile are likely to stick to the recent change to 442 that gave them the win over Nigeria. Crucially, Sampaoli needs will need to keep consistent in choosing Banega and Mascherano in midfield, especially given the importance of the former’s performance. Elsewhere, it remains to be seen what choices will be made; Aguero’s mobility and finishing may be preferable to an out of sorts Higuain; on the right flank, either Meza or Perez will probably be used but neither have been particularly impressive in this World Cup.
Match Facts & Summary
|World Cup Base||Moscow||Moscow|
|2014 World Cup Finish||Quarterfinal||Runners-Up|
|Total Head to Head Record||Played 11, France 2 Wins, Argentina 6 Wins|
|Total Head to Head (World Cup Only)||Played 2, Argentina 2 Wins|
|Penalty Shootout Record||Won 2 of 4||Won 4 of 5|
|Odds – Result||1.40||2.48|
|Odds – To Win World Cup||8.00 (5th favourite)||14.00 (7th favourite)|
|Best Odds – Golden Boot||Griezmann (59.00)||Messi (23.00)|
|Best Odds – Golden Ball||Griezmann (30.00)||Messi (14.50)|
France opened their World Cup at Kazan with their 2-1 win over Australia, but unless Didier Deschamps can find a configuration that improves their attacking impetus, his gallery of attacking stars will be little more than names on a page against a wounded and disappointed Argentina. The performance against Nigeria wasn’t perfect, but it did just enough to encourage the sentiment that the South Americans have a little more fight in them than the previous matches suggested. Argentina have already been stretched by arguably the best team in the competition at present, and that may well count in their favour as they face a France who appear largely untested, but also unclear in their own capacity to step up the gears needed to progress to the quarterfinal. Both sides are based in Moscow, so no advantage exists for either side in travelling distance. A close game is imminent, but one where the quality of Messi and company could surpass the expectations on paper to proceed to the quarterfinals.
* Please note – odds mentioned above are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.
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