World Cup 2018: France v Argentina – live!

A strange game to work out, this one. It’s a collision between the rickety force and the meandering object; fiery, furious flappers against bores with enough bite to draw blood; bronca versus beige. It’s a meeting between a team who have subjected themselves, their fans and the rest of us to an emotional rollercoaster, all in the space of 10 nerve-shredding days, and one searching for a plan. On the one hand we have the genius of Lionel Messi propping up the least impressive Argentina side in living memory. On the other we have an odd France team whose featureless football threatens to cancel out their frightening depth and array of talent. Trying to make sense all feels like a futile task.

Your guess is as good as mine, although the feeling at the moment is that France have the edge before the first second-round tie of Russia 2018. They’re the more settled team, they cruised through their group and the sense is that they have far more ways of winning than Argentina. They have Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and, er, Olivier Giroud. They can unleash Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir, Thomas Lemar and Florian Thauvin if needs be and on paper they possess enviable balance, with the magnificent N’Golo Kante screening a solid defence. Yet is there a more frustrating team left in the tournament? Unlikely. All that firepower and France have managed three goals in three matches. They laboured against Australia and Peru, were booed off after a grim 0-0 draw with Denmark and have more than a whiff of England 2006 about them. That’s a big accusation to level at anyone. But unless France find a way to conjure some Gallic flair soon, neutrals will start to wish ill on them. Time for the monotone Didier Deschamps to lift the handbrake.

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