Argentina have qualified for the second round by the skin of their teeth. In the end, Croatia dominated a group many expected to go the way of the South Americans. Events in other groups, however, give Lionel Messi and friends cause to be optimistic about their further progress.
1. Argentina has an opening to the semi-final
Before the start of the tournament, we’d think that most would not have wanted to face France early on, but Didier Deschamps’ men haven’t exactly set the stage alight. Unspectacular, slow in possession, and flat out boring are what you’d most likely describe their group stage as, and Argentina have no reason to think they cannot be picked off.
Paul Pogba, the biggest talent in midfield, is playing as Pogba does. Enigmatic and a man of moments, do not expect him to dominate a quality team with possession. He simply does not do that. In N’Golo Kante, the French have one of the premier defensive midfielders in the game. He, though, keeps it ticking after winning the ball back with the right, if often simple, pass and the onus is on the others to provide forward impetus more often than not.
Another possible starter, Blaise Matuidi, is never going to help that situation much. Let’s hope for Corentin Tolisso. France are essentially a team of moments. Those moments come from Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, and Ousmane Dembele. All prolific dribblers, it will be interesting to see how the combative and fractious Argentines keep away from the referees’ books.
If they get past France, it would be one of Uruguay and…Portugal in the quarter finals, the round they should have marked as par before the first ball was kicked.