El Paisano

World Cup: France to face Argentina, Croatia anticipate Denmark

Lionel+Messi+piggy-backs+Marcos+Rojo+%28no.+15%29+after+the+latter%27s+goal+kept+Messi+from+backing+his+bags.+Photo+credit%3A+Richard+Heathcote%2C+Getty+Images
Lionel Messi piggy-backs Marcos Rojo (no. 15) after the latter's goal kept Messi from backing his bags. Photo credit: Richard Heathcote, Getty Images

Lionel Messi piggy-backs Marcos Rojo (no. 15) after the latter's goal kept Messi from backing his bags. Photo credit: Richard Heathcote, Getty Images

Lionel Messi piggy-backs Marcos Rojo (no. 15) after the latter's goal kept Messi from backing his bags. Photo credit: Richard Heathcote, Getty Images

In St. Petersburg, it took a Marcos Rojo 87th minute game-winner to identify Group D’s knockout contestants. The goal gave Argentina a 2-1 win against Nigeria. And thanks to Croatia’s victory over Iceland by the same score, a spot in the Round of 16.

With the win in Rostov-On-Don, Croatia earned top spot of the group and Argentina’s result meant Nigeria were left out after needing just a draw against the South Americans to advance.

Earlier in the day, France and Denmark of Group C tied 0-0 in their final group stage matchup. Both squads were guaranteed a spot in the next round with the tie in the fixture which meant rested players on both sides from each manager.

France finished top of the group after goal difference. With that comes an appetizing first round matchup against second place Argentina. Second place Denmark discovered Croatia as their next foe.

Adverse Argentina

Following a scare to start their World Cup campaign in Russia, the South Americans came into game three with just one point after two matches. Needing a victory over Nigeria to avoid first round failure, Rojo came to the rescue for a disgruntled country.

Messi’s goal in the 14th minute pushed Argentina on the front-foot and, momentarily, rid the cloud of lackluster the team has been hovered by in its unacceptable performances so far. In the 51st minute though, a foul committed in the box by Javier Mascherano on Leon Balogun earned Nigeria a penalty which Victor Moses converted.

Lucky for Mascherano, Rojo’s last-gasp volley bailed out the veteran and sent Nigerians into heartbreak.

Despite the good fortune, it remains a mystery whether Argentina has it in them to stay in the tournament further than the next round.

Flat France beware

It’s no secret that to this point Argentina (La Albiceleste) have been disappointing. A win like Tuesday’s however can inspire a team to greater things. Beware France (Les Blues).

On paper, France’s seven points and +2 goal difference with two shutouts look credible. When you watch their football matches, not so much.

It’s been a tournament of cruise control for the French as their on-field tactics and style of play has brought many to think Les Blues may not be capable when facing a high-calibre team.

The squad, much like Argentina’s, bolsters superstar names and players with fine career paths in big clubs. As a collective, the team has been surprisingly mundane.

They were second best against Peru and edged past Australia thanks to an own goal. They won both matches yet were the inferior in the pair.

Having 11 great players doesn’t always make a top team but we’ve yet to see what France can truly bring to the table. With both teams struggling to break out of their shell, this encounter will sort the contenders from the pretenders.

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Ignacio Cervantes, Reporter
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World Cup: France to face Argentina, Croatia anticipate Denmark