Argentina | France | Lionel Messi | Jorge Sampaoli | World Cup | 2018 | Football | Onmanorama

Samuel Umtiti is also a team-mate of Messi's at Barcelona and his knowledge may prove useful.

As France look to underperforming striker Antoine Griezmann to lift his game, Sampaoli underlined a bigger threat in 19-year-old Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Kylian Mbappe, who struck France's match victor in a 1-0 win over Peru, and 21-year-old Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele.

After sealing a spot in the last-16 with two wins in the first two games, France benched their senior player Pogba. The doors are open for every one of them...

Barcelona star Messi will start up front and is expected to be partnered with Gonzalo Higuain while Sergio Aguero remains out in the cold following a reported bust-up with Sampaoli.

In goal, the decision will have to be made as to whether to recall Willy Caballero - whose howler led to Croatia's first goal in their 3-0 rout - or stick with 31-year-old Franco Armani, who appeared to suit the team as he made his debut in the win against Nigeria.

The 2018 World Cup's round of 16 begins on Saturday, and it kicks off with a huge clash. Lionel Messi's roaring back to form in the final group match would be giving sleepless nights to France coach Didier Deschamps while he will be simultaneously praying for his team to fire all cylinders in the upcoming match. Only Mbappe and Di Maria are likely to start, though.

Speaking about the specific threat from five-time Ballon d'Or victor Messi, Deschamps said in Kazan on Friday: "Messi is Messi..." "You only have to look at his statistics - 65 goals from 127 matches - to know everything".

As usual, much of the attention will be placed on Argentine Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest soccer player ever. "He helped us win, and that makes a big difference". "But their team is highly experienced, we talk about Messi, but [Javier] Mascherano has lots of caps, so is used to the pressure".

Argentina go into the game with history on their side, having won six of the 11 meetings between the two teams (with two French wins and three draws).

Some fans jeered and others probably dozed off when Les Bleus drew 0-0 with Denmark to finish top of Group C while Argentina thrilled their fans with Messi scoring a superb goal as his team scraped into the knockout phase by beating Nigeria.

  • Stacy Allen