World Cup 2018: Argentina and France to meet in a clash of underperforming titans | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 29.06.2018
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World Cup 2018: Argentina and France to meet in a clash of underperforming titans

The round of 16 begins with a bang courtesy of a heavyweight clash between France and Argentina in Kazan. On paper at least, this appears to be one of the standout fixtures of the whole competition.

Argentina's losses are world football's gain, literally. Lionel Messi and co. failed to reach the peak of their powers in the group stage, but after Marcos Rojo's late volley secured second in Group D, a mouth-watering encounter with France now awaits.

France, in truth, have been short of form themselves. Didier Deschamps's charges finished top of Group C but largely failed to impress in beating Australia and Peru, before sharing a tedious goalless draw with Denmark to seal their passage to the knock-out phases.

Argentina back on track?

Before the summer showpiece in Russia started, both sides were being touted as potential winners, while reaching the semifinals would have been the minimum expectation for both.

While France's setup appears to have struggled to get their best out a star-studded squad, Argentina almost went off the rails entirely with reports that Messi and Javier Mascherano are calling the shots. Messi for one, though, is determined to get things back on track.

"Of course we have watched every [France] game. We follow it all," said the five-time Ballon d'Or winner. "France are a very good team with very good individual players. They have very fast players who can make a difference. They also have [Barcelona] team-mates whom I know well."

Griezmann ready to go up a gear

Antoine Griezmann seemed to be toying with the idea of becoming one of those team mates next season. However, the French forward signed a contract extension with Atletico Madrid just before the tournament got underway.

Like many of his compatriots, Griezmann has fallen short of expectations and, with just a goal to his name, is promising fans there's more to come.

"I'm sure I will soon get to the level everybody expects me to be at," said Griezmann. "It was the same at the Euros, I only started to feel good from the last 16."

For one of these sides, the last 16 will be their final appearance in Russia. Whoever does emerge victorious, the result will not only send a message to the remaining teams in the competition, but will also hopefully be the sign of bigger things to come.

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