France are 2.52 favourites to beat Argentina in the first Last-16 clash on Saturday lunchtime. Didier Deschamps' players were not especially impressive during the knockout phase but qualified with seven points from three matches and conceded just one goal.
Their problems were at the other end: despite a glittering array of attacking talent France managed to score just once from open play. Admittedly that was partly because they went through the motions in their final group game vs Denmark, an encounter that ended in a 0-0 draw that suited both teams - but it's not as though les Bleus were much more impressive in their first two matches, either.
Antoine Griezmann has been the side's biggest disappointment so far. The Atletico Madrid striker has looked a shadow of the player that inspired France to the Euro 2016 final, finishing as the tournament's top scorer and best player. His poor form is the reason France cannot be backed with any real confidence to win.
Passing a problem for Sampaoli's underdogs
Argentina squeezed through thanks to Marcus Rojo's late right-footed winner against Nigeria. The Manchester United defender's goal prompted scenes of jubilation on the pitch, in the stands and back home in South America.
Yet the late strike should not mask Argentina's obvious flaws. For much of the second-half they ran out of ideas and were unable to unpick the Super Eagles' defence. In truth, Jorge Sampaoli's side have produced just 45 minutes of good football at the tournament, the first-half against Nigeria. And they have problems all over the pitch.
Argentina's passing out from the back has been poor. They're lucky that France do not press particularly aggressively in advanced areas, but it's still a problem. Their distribution from midfield - Ever Banega excepted - has not been good enough, either, so there are few reasons to strongly favour the Albiceleste at odds of 3.55 despite the lurking genius of Lionel Messi.
The Draw by default therefore becomes the prize selection. France have greater depth of quality across their starting line-up, but if they perform as they did in the group stages, there's no reason to suspect they'll clearly outplay Argentina on the day.
Argentina set to clinch corners battle
Given the attacking problems that both teams have had so far and the fact that a cautious veil is often draped over the second round, Under 2.5 Goals would normally appeal. Yet the market has responded well, with odds of 1.56 already in place. These look suitably short so this market is best left alone.
For those looking for a second bet on the game, consider backing Argentina in a Corners Match Bet. Argentina earned 20 corners across their first three matches, whereas France won only 12, and never more than five in a single game.
Much of this is down to the fact that Deschamps has plumped for the more conservative full-backs Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez as opposed to the more attack-minded Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy (both of whom went into the tournament with injury concerns).
If Pavard - who rarely beats his opponent in one-on-one situations - and Hernandez are on the teamsheet on Saturday, backing Argentina to win more corners in the game will be a sound investment at a decent price.
France and Argentina will be facing each other for the 12th time. The South Americans hold the upper hand with six wins to two (D3), keeping a clean sheet in eight of their previous 11 encounters with the French. Argentina are3.55 to win.
Argentina have won their two World Cup encounters with France, back in 1930 (1-0) and 1978 (2-1). On both occasions, they reached the final, losing it in 1930 and winning in 1978. Argentina are2.38 to qualify for the next round.
The last South American team to beat France at the World Cup were Argentina in 1978. Since then, France are unbeaten in eight World Cup fixtures against CONMEBOL opposition (W4 D4). The draw is3.05.
Argentina have gone past the first round for the 12th time in their last 13 World Cup appearances, the only exception coming in 2002. Their last four knockout games in the tournament have produced only three goals (2 goals for, 1 against). Under 2.5 goals is1.57.
Penalty shoot-outs excluded, France have lost only one of their last 11 games in the knockout stages of the World Cup (W8 D2), that came against eventual winners Germany in July 2014 (0-1). France are2.52 to win.
Since the introduction of the round of 16 in 1986, France have always made it past that stage whenever they’ve reached it (1986, 1998, 2006, 2014). France are1.66 to make the quarter-finals.
France only conceded five shots on target in their three group games at World Cup 2018. The only goal they let in came from the penalty spot (Mile Jedinak for Australia). They are2.50to keep a clean sheet.
Argentine forward Lionel Messi has never scored in the knockout stages of the World Cup: 666 minutes, 0 goals. He is the last Argentinean player to score against France, back in February 2009 in a friendly (2-0). Messi is2.70 to find the net.
Lionel Messi is the third Argentinian player to have scored in three different World Cup tournaments, alongside Diego Maradona (1982, 1986, 1994) and Gabriel Batistuta (1994, 1998, 2002). Messi is5.00 to score the first goal.
France’s Olivier Giroud has failed to score in his last 357 minutes at World Cup/Euro, his longest drought at major tournaments, with his last goal dating back to the Euro 2016 quarter-final against Iceland. He’s yet to register a shot on target at this year’s World Cup, having spent 200 minutes on the pitch. Under 1.5 goals is2.72.