28th of June 2018 Author: Johnny Karp
The first knockout round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Saturday evening at Kazan Arena with a clash between two of the biggest nations in football: France and Argentina. The two teams have not met at a World Cup since 1978, when Argentina defeated France 2-1 in the group stage before going all the way the trophy. The last match between the two nations was a friendly in 2009, which Argentina won 2-0. In fact, France have lost all their four matches against Argentina, friendly or not.
France were unable to impress in Group C, they were lucky to beat Australia 2-1 in the opening match, then grabbed a narrow 1-0 victory over Peru and then played out a shameful goalless draw with Denmark, a result which pushed both teams into the first knockout round of the competition. Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann were the only players to score for the French so far. Head coach Didier Deschamps is still unsure of Samuel Umtiti, the Barcelona defender remains a fitness doubt but he has a good chance of being ready before Saturday's match.
Argentina survived a serious scare in Group D, they have been very close to being sent home. They got held to a 1-1 draw in the opening match by Iceland, then got hammered 3-0 by Croatia but fought back in the final group match and defeated Nigeria 2-1 thanks to a late goal from Marcos Rojo. Lionel Messi has scored just one goal so far, Sergio Aguero scored one as well, but was left out of the starting eleven against Nigeria. Head coach Jorge Sampaoli doesn't have any injury concerns ahead of Saturday's match, so he will most likely field the same eleven that defeated Nigeria last time out.
France: Lloris - Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez - Kante, Pogba - Mbappe, Griezmann, Matuidi - Giroud
Argentina: Armani - Mercado, Otamendi, Rojo, Tagliafico - Perez, Mascherano, Banega, Di Maria - Higuain, Messi
My prediction: Argentina to win 2-1, France have been just too lucky to get this far.
Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:
France win - 2.30
Draw - 3.10
Argentina win - 3.70
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