Messi leads Argentina attack as usual suspects return for France

Argentina coach has opted to not name an out-and-out striker for the last-16 clash with France, as Lionel Messi starts as a 'false nine'.

Lionel Messi will start as the focal point of Argentina's attack for the last-16 contest with France.   -  AFP

Lionel Messi will start as the focal point of Argentina's attack for the last-16 contest with France in Kazan, while Didier Deschamps has sprung few surprises.

Jorge Sampaoli's decision to ignore the natural strikers he has at his disposal will not come as a huge shock, with Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain struggling to make an impact in Russia.

Aguero scored Argentina's first goal in the team's Group D opener, but has otherwise been quiet, while Higuain was guilty of a couple of bad misses in the dramatic 2-1 win over Nigeria.

Cristian Pavon comes in for his first start of the tournament having previously been used as an impact substitute – his pace and direct play proving a decent asset to Argentina.

Plenty of changes

On the other side of things, Deschamps – who is overseeing France for a record 80th time on Saturday – has made six changes from the dead-rubber 0-0 draw with Denmark last time out.

Hugo Lloris, Benjamin Pavard, Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Kylian Mbappe all return, with Deschamps resisting the urge to start Nabil Fekir, who has impressed in several cameo appearances.

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