World Cup 2018: France vs Argentina, 3 key player battles that can decide the outcome
The FIFA World Cup is slowly entering the business end of the competition and the knockout stage will kick-off tomorrow at the Kazan Arena with Didier Deschamps' France taking on Jorge Sampaoli's La Albiceleste and Lionel Messi. The encounter promises to be an enticing one considering the number of star names who will lock horns to keep their World Cup hopes alive by progressing to the last eight of the competition.
Despite finishing as winners of Group C, France have not hit the peak of their form and have been far from convincing especially after being considered as hot favourites to lift the trophy prior to the tournament. Argentina, on the other hand, have had problems of their own and just about did enough to progress ahead of Nigeria as runners-up in Group D after snatching a late win over the Super Eagles in their final group game.
However, both teams will be heading into the game with only one thing in mind and that will be to nullify the other and keep themselves alive in the tournament. In this segment, we will be profiling the 3 key player battles that can possibly decide the outcome of this crunch game. Without further delay, let's take a closer look at how these personal battles are expected pan out during this steaming battle in Kazan:
#3 Antoine Griezmann vs Nicolas Otamendi
Antoine Griezmann entered the competition as one of the strong contenders to win the golden boot award considering France's rich vein of talent in the attacking department. However, the Atletico Madrid striker has not been at his usual best so far in the tournament after managing just a single goal, which came from the penalty spot against Australia in Les Bleus' opening game, so far.
The Frenchman will be looking to exploit Argentina's fragile defending with his blistering pace when the two teams meet in their pre-quarter tie but he will certainly have his task cut out when he goes toe to toe with Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of La Albiceleste's defence. The defender struggled against Croatia as part of a back-three but he looked more assured and caught the eye with his sturdy defending when he was deployed alongside Marcos Rojo in a back-four against Nigeria.
Otamendi's volatile nature coupled with Griezmann's lightning pace will surely result in an intriguing battle on the pitch.