Sampaoli planning to use Messi as a false nine against France

Tanya Simon
June 30, 2018

France haven't beaten La Albiceleste since 1986, and the teams' two World Cup encounters to date have both ended in favor of Argentina - who won 1-0 in 1930 and 2-1 in 1978, both times en route to the final.

France's team, whose average age is 25, will be looking to awake from their recent slumber and Sampaoli, whose side's average age is 30, underlined the danger of allowing the France to dictate play.

Deschamps rejected the idea of an "anti-Messi plan" but does want his players to keep him as quiet as possible.

That was also the case in the final group game 0-0 draw against Denmark - the first (and so far only) goalless game at Russian Federation 2018 - which was a sleep-inducing affair that did little to inspire French fans.

But with Portuguese rival Cristiano Ronaldo racing ahead in the scoring charts on four goals so far, and England's Harry Kane on five goals in just two matches, Messi risks finishing this World Cup with a whimper.

It's Argentina vs. France in Kazan with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.

France will look to keep Messi quiet with three defenders - Samuel Umtiti, Raphaël Varane and Lucas Hernandez - familiar with him from La Liga and the most salient point in Deschamps' show of monotony came when he was invited to reflect on whether such knowledge may count in their favour.

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"It's straightforward, hopefully we would like to neutralise him but we know very well he can make the difference with very little".

"I hope to be able to answer after the match with a yes", he said.

"This is going to be a hard match, we are going to have to step up our level", Lloris said. "That's what makes him so good".

"Kylian did more defensively in the second match, scored and could have grabbed another - there is a collective mindset when we do not have the ball, and that concerns everybody".

There were no prizes to guess Argentina's key player - their captain and best player, Messi.

"Messi is unique; you can not compare another player with Messi", the Tottenham Hotspur man said.

"The higher the level, the smaller the margin for error".

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