Preview: France v Argentina

Samuel Umtiti has dismissed criticism of France's performances and insists the naysayers will change their tune if Les Bleus triumph in Russia.

Didier Deschamps' men have struggled to hit top gear in the World Cup so far, although they still managed to top Group C with seven points from three games. However, a turgid goalless draw with Denmark on Tuesday - a stalemate that ensured France finished first and Denmark qualified - attracted plenty of negative headlines.

Next up is a blockbuster clash with Argentina - and Umtiti's Barcelona club-mate Lionel Messi - in the last 16 on Saturday and the former Lyon man says only the result counts in Kazan.

"We're working to improve, to play a bit better, because we can do it," he said.

"But the most important thing will be to win, because if we go all the way, even if most people are not pleased by our football, everybody will be happy and we won't hear any more that the football was lacking."

Retour à l'entraînement avec le match de l'Argentine en tête ! #FRAARG #Fiersdetrebleus

— Equipe de France (@equipedefrance) June 27, 2018

Having spent most of his press conference on Thursday eulogising about Messi, Umtiti admitted knocking Argentina out would give him added satisfaction.

He added: "Only going through is important to me.

"If we knock out Brazil, Peru or Mexico, for me, I don't care. But it's true that playing such a great nation like Argentina...I would be proud to knock them out."

Argentina's qualification for the knockout phase was as dramatic as France's was routine. They were heading out when drawing 1-1 with Nigeria with four minutes to go of their final Group D game when the unlikely figure of Marcos Rojo emerged as the hero, scoring a fine volley to send Jorge Sampaoli's men through.

Despite the close call, midfielder Giovani Lo Celso said: "I would not call it a miracle but it was a very hard-fought qualification.

"Obviously it felt pretty agonising at times because of everything we had at stake, but we used all the tools we have as a team.

"We worked hard to get it and now we are much stronger to face France."

Lo Celso will encounter several familiar faces on Sunday as he plays his club football in France for Paris Saint-Germain.


France - Paul Pogba

Pogba will return to the starting XI after France's fringe players failed to impress in the horror show with Denmark. Argentina's midfield has looked ponderous so far and an in-form Pogba could wreak havoc.

Argentina - Lionel Messi

Who else? Argentina's captain, inspiration and best player by a country mile. The Barcelona superstar has faced criticism for his performances in Russia but his opening goal against Nigeria showed class is permanent.


Photo Getty Images. Caption: France defender Samuel Umtiti