Messi Must Deliver And France Must Fire In World Cup Last 16

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Argentina and Lionel Messi need to find form fast if they are to go any further in the World Cup on Saturday when they meet a France team who have yet to live up to their billing.

The first last-16 match in Russia promises to be a fascinating clash of two under-achieving sides who are supposedly on different trajectories.

All the flaws of an ageing and unbalanced Argentina team were ruthlessly exposed in the thrashing by Croatia in the group stage.

But, roared on by a pumped-up Diego Maradona, Messi finally opened his account in this tournament before Marcos Rojo volleyed in a stunning winner against Nigeria as the losing 2014 finalists punched their ticket to the knockout stage.

Didier Deschamps’ France, meanwhile, among the pre-tournament favourites, have looked sluggish despite easing through the group stage unbeaten.

First-choice striker Antoine Griezmann has been unable to recapture his best form and the creativity has failed to flow from midfield.

Deschamps is adamant that France will get it all right on the night when the business end of the tournament kicks off on Saturday.

“A whole new competition begins now, direct elimination,” Deschamps said. “We got what we wanted. Now the mountain looms up in front of us, but we’re there and we’re aiming to get through to the next round after that.”

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi underlined his importance to Argentina with a sublimely-taken opening goal against Nigeria on Tuesday..

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