World Cup Preview – Round of 16 | France v Argentina – Uruguay v Portugal

Saturday sees the first knockout games at the World Cup take place as the Round of 16 gets underway.

The first game sees one of the tournament favourites France take on Argentina – who were lucky to escape their group.

France coach Didier Deschamps refuses to believe that Argentina are not still a huge threat to Les Bleus.

“This World Cup is hard, tougher than the one in 2014 I feel,” he said.

“A new competition starts now. We came here with big ambitions. We had some tough games but we got what we wanted. We are here with a lot of humility and ambition. Now, we are in front of the mountain.”

Argentina have limped into the last 16 and coach Jorge Sampaoli is constantly have to deny that he is hardly in charge, with Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano reportedly dictating tings on and off the pitch.

“My style is being close to my players and understanding often the coach’s ego doesn’t allow him to understand what is happening with his players. It is important to go through different phases with the national team because that way you can improve for the future,” insisted Sampaoli.

The winner of France and Argentina will not have long to wait to find out their opponents in the quarter-finals as they will face Uruguay or Portugal, who face each other on Saturday evening.

Fernando Santos is confident his European champions can overcome their South American opponents.

“Uruguay has high quality and top-notch players and they’re all excellent – but Portugal too. We have our weapons and we’re going to try to win,” he said.

Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez is happy with how his side have progress through the tournament, and they are one of the few teams going into the last 16 with a 100% record.

“For me the holy grail of football is the word ‘balance’. When we attack we need to be able to attack, but it doesn’t come from an abstract suggestion,” he said.

“Whenever there is an attack it is because ball possession has been recovered or we have defended well on an opponent’s attack. We work on balance all of the time.”

See below for a preview on the games, including predictions from former England and Tottenham midfielder Andy Gray and our own Football Insider Graeme Bailey and bet365’s Steve Freeth.

France 15:00 Argentina
Kazan Arena, Kazan

 Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante; Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele; Olivier Giroud

Argentina: Franco Armani; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Tagliafico; Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez, Angel Di Maria; Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain

KEY FACT: This will be the third time France and Argentina meet at the World Cup
Match odds from bet365: FRANCE 29/20 DRAW 2/1 ARGENTINA 5/2
bet365 Pick: France to win @11/5
ANDY SAYS: France will just have the edge here for me and I think they go through…2-1
GRAEME SAYS: France should have too much in every department, Argentina to go home…2-0
FOOTBALLIndex – One to follow: Lionel Messi – his is carrying his country now, big game expected and he could yet hold some value

Uruguay 19:00 Portugal
Fisht Stadium, Sochi

Uruguay: Fernando Muslera; Martin Caceres, Jose Maria Gimenez, Diego Godin, Diego Laxalt; Nahitan Nandez, Matias Vecino, Lucas Torreira, Rodrigo Bentancur; Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

Portugal: Rui Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, William; Adrien Silva, Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Mario; Goncalo Guedes, Cristiano Ronaldo.

KEY FACT: Uruguay have lost three of their four World Cup Round of 16 fixtures, failing to find the back of the net in all three of those defeats
Match odds from bet365: URUGUAY 9/5 DRAW 2/1 PORTUGAL 2/1
bet365 Pick: Uruguay to win on penalties @17/2
ANDY SAYS: I like the look of Uruguay and I think Suarez and Cavani will get them through…3-1
GRAEME SAYS: Close call but I can see Portugal with Ronaldo inspiring them edging through after extra time 1-2 (AET)
FOOTBALLIndex – One to follow: Cristiano Ronaldo – could be on his way to the Golden Boot so has to be the one to watch

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