• France’s two early wins allowed it to rest stars like Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé against Denmark, and they’ll be hoping that shows up as crispness today, not sleepiness or lost momentum.
• Argentina’s first two games were an unmitigated dumpster fire, but they found a way to beat Nigeria, 2-1, on a gorgeous Lionel Messi goal and a late winner from Marcos Rojo. If Messi has indeed decided to play a vital role here, to lift his team by the scruff of its neck and carry it, that could be a game-changer for Argentina.
“We are going to play against a team with great individual players,” Argentina Manager Jorge Sampaoli said. “They are among the very best contenders and we will need to be very consistent to come out on top of a very difficult match.”
• Argentina was a World Cup finalist four years ago. If they don’t straighten out their problems, they could follow the team that beat them — Germany — out the door. The Germans didn’t survive the group stage.
• France enters off a scoreless tie against Denmark, the only such match of the World Cup, and a game so dreadful that the coaches were asked to explain themselves afterward. “One point for the draw was good enough for them, and we didn’t have to take risks to do better because this result was good for everyone,” France Manager Didier Deschamps said.
Some Pregame Reading
• Rory Smith of The Times did a terrific piece on where France finds its players these days: many cut their teeth in the vast concrete sprawl of cities and satellite towns outside Paris, a talent pool the size of Belgium.
• Is Lionel Messi to blame for what ails Argentina? Not so fast.
• Is today the point in the World Cup when the surprises stop? The carnival spirit and upsets of the group stage rarely continue in the knockout rounds, Rory Smith writes, but international soccer is more democratic than ever.