Huffy-puffy France out to end Messi’s World Cup dreams

Reuters

France will feature in a seismic last-16 clash of former champions with a resurgent Argentina on Saturday (June 30), and they will have to drastically improve if they are to stop Lionel Messi.

But Les Bleus insist they will be ready after a tailor-made physical preparation, with talismanic striker Antoine Griezmann expected to finally shine.

In 2006, France huffed and puffed into the knockout rounds, where they beat Spain, Brazil and Portugal en route to the final.

A similar pattern applied to Argentina in 1978, when they won the World Cup after losing to Italy in the group phase.

France will bank on Argentina’s defensive struggles after the South Americans conceded five goals in three matches.

The French defence has not conceded a goal in open play in the tournament for the first time since 1998, the year of their only World Cup title, but the threat level will reach its maximum as Messi, 31, will be like a fox in the hen-house.

Argentina last won the World Cup in 1986, when Maradona held the trophy aloft after defeating West Germany in the final.