#2 Javier Mascherano vs Paul Pogba
Like in many crucial games, even this encounter has the potential to be won or lost in midfield and that does not bode well for Argentina, to be honest. On paper, there is only one winner in this department and Les Bleus have the legs of Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante, two players who can decide the outcome of any game on their day, in contrast to Sampaoli's lack of options in the centre of the park.
The emergence of an unlikely hero in the form of Ever Banega is something La Albiceleste will welcome with open hands but Javier Mascherano's decline could be a cause of concern especially in the knockout stages of the competition where there is very little margin for error.
Mascherano is undoubtedly a leader on the pitch but it is quite clear that he is a shadow of his former self from Brazil four years ago, when Argentina finished as runners-up in the tournament, and his sloppy passing and lack of pace can put his side to the sword against teams like France.
Pogba will be liberated in midfield with the extra protection behind him and this battle could well and truly decide Argentina's hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals.Published 29 Jun 2018, 15:44 IST