Key Battles

N’golo Kante vs Lionel Messi

Since we’re on the topic of nullifying Messi, let’s star with the man who possesses the endless stamina to keep track of Leo.

N’golo Kante has been one of the best players at this World Cup. He runs and runs and then runs again. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a blade of grass that he does not clip with his boots. He combines that hard-work with impressive reading of the game, as his 3.3 interceptions per game tell.

While Kante might not be able to contend with Messi’s dribbling, he sure can neuter his playmaking ability. Messi for Argentina is more of a playmaker than an out and out attacker. For this game, Messi might have to become a bit more direct in his approach than bring others into play.

This is bound to be a fascinating battle between a man with the golden touch and an inexhaustible force of nature.

Paul Pogba vs Ever Banega

Paul Pogba is, rightfully, one of the most versatile midfielders on the planet. He can score, he can pass and he can track back to defend. A veritable Swiss Knife of a midfielder, if there ever was one.

Ever Banega is kind of similar, though not as highly regarded. He’s played in multiple positions in the midfield and at 30, possesses the experience to alter playing styles. It was him, and not Messi or Rojo, who was the architect of Argentina’s last-gasp win over Nigeria. Banega played a beautiful ball in for Messi to score the first against Nigeria.

If Messi is to be more direct against France, then they will need more of this from the Sevilla man. Pogba will have to amp up his work-rate to cut down the space that Banega likes to work with. At the same time, Pogba has to serve as a creative outlet for Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud.

This will be a battle fought on multiple fronts, so keep an eye out for this.


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