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World Cup Free Pick: France vs Argentina

June 29, 2018

The world will be watching on Saturday when France plays Argentina in the round of 16 knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The winner moves on to the quarterfinals with a date against the winner of Uruguay and Portugal.

The current line by odds makers has France favored at 7 to 5, Argentina 5 to 2 and a draw 15 to 8.

Between the two clubs they have won three World Cups but neither played up to its potential during the group stage. France ended with two wins and one draw to win its group while Argentina ended with a win, loss and draw barely reaching the knockout round as the runner up in its group.

France drew with Denmark 0-0 in its last outing with both clubs moving through to the knockout stage. The match featured few chances on goal for either side.

Argentina played an exciting on the edge of your seat final match in its group as they needed to defeat Nigeria and hope Iceland did not defeat Croatia. Argentina led early, but a penalty early after the intermission allowed Nigeria to knot the match at 1-1 and time was quickly running out for the Argentines.

However, Marcos Rojo fired home an excellent shot from the top of the box to breathe life back into Argentina and push them through to the round of 16.

France will have Olivier Giroud out front with Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe just behind on either side, while Paul Pogba, Benjamin Pavard and Samuel Umtiti will return to their starting roles. Do not be surprised if Blaise Matuidi is slotted on the left to double up Messi in an attempt to neutralize the star. N’Golo Kante will be focused on Messi from the opening whistle and Matuidi is expected to help Kante keep Messi in check.

The lineup Argentina will have is not as easy to predict. Rumors have swirled around the World Cup that manager Jorge Sampaoli is no longer calling the shots and it appears the top players on the club will remain with their 4-4-2 setup that beat Nigeria.

Goaltender Willy Caballero made a huge error in Argentina’s loss to Croatia and is not likely to be back after Franco Armani played well in the win over Nigeria. Sergio Aguero is expected to take back his spot from veteran Gonzalo Higuain up front.

A key for France is to move forward as the offense produced just three goals in three matches. The French side will need to pressure the Argentina defense with Griezmann, Mbappe and Giroud, with through passes coming from Pogba.

At the same time, the Argentines, if the rumor is true that Sampaoli is no longer in charge, need to put their faith in the senior players and push forward every opportunity they get.

Prediction: In the end, French will find a way to win. Look for the match to end deadlocked 1-1 after 90 minutes and France adding a goal during one of the two 15-minute extra periods to win 2-1.

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