After two below-par performances by regular Nos 9 Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain in the last two matches, speculation came true as Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli discarded the latter and replaced him with winger Cristian Pavon in the starting XI for their 2018 Fifa World Cup last 16 match against France in Kazan Saturday.
This means Albiceleste captain Lionel Messi, who scored the first goal against Nigeria in their last Group D match in Saint Petersburg Tuesday, will play as a false No 9, and in front of Ever Banega, Angel di Maria and Pavon.
There were no other changes in the side.
France and Argentina fans are READY. 🇫🇷🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/hFXmWsY0jI— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 30, 2018
As far as numbers are concerned, Argentina have the worst group stage record among the 16 teams who have qualified for the knockout stage. The Sky Blues progressed with four points and a goal difference of -2. Only Japan advanced with four points and a neutral goal difference. Even Iran and Senegal, who have already been eliminated, had a better group stage record than the Argentines.
In the World Cup, France have lost twice against the Albiceleste but this time around, the Les Blues will try their best not only to frustrate Argentina but some 35, 000 Sky Blues fans who have travelled to Kazan.
Argentina: Franco Armani; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Tagliafico; Ever Banega, Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez, Angel di Maria; Lionel Messi, Cristian Pavon
France: Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante; Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele; Olivier Giroud